Apple Watch 3 release date, news and rumors

What can Apple do to make the smartwatch a real must-have piece of tech?

Update: A new patent suggests the Apple Watch 3 may be much thinner by putting modular functionality into the wrist band. You'll be able to install extra battery and even more features into links on your wrist.

The Apple Watch 3, or the Apple Watch Series 3 as it will probably be called, is a long way off yet, but there are already a few rumors about it and as the biggest name in smartwatches it's sure to be the subject of numerous leaks well before its launch.

This guide will keep you up to date with all the latest news and rumors, along with our own analysis. 

If that's not enough we've even added a wishlist of features we want to see -please let us know in the comments below what you'd like added in as well.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The next wearable from Apple
  • When is it out? Late 2017 or early 2018 probably
  • What will it cost? More than most smartwatches

Apple Watch 3 release date

There aren't any release date rumors yet and while we can often look at previous releases to guess at the schedule that's not as easy with the Apple Watch, as rather than a roughly 12-month gap between the first two there was a 17-month one.

What we can be fairly confident of is that there will be at least a year between the Apple Watch 2 and the Apple Watch 3, which means we're not likely to see the Apple Watch 3 before September 2017 at the earliest.

If it arrives then, it will probably launch alongside the iPhone 8. The problem is the original Apple Watch launched in April, so perhaps we'll be waiting until April 2018, or maybe Apple will choose another date altogether. 

All we can say for sure is that you've got a long time to save, as we don't really expect this to be a yearly-refreshed device from Apple, as it would create too many variants with not a lot to actually put in as an upgrade.

TechRadar's take: Apple doesn't seem to see the Apple Watch as a device which needs refreshing every year, so don't count on seeing the Apple Watch 3 before 2018.

Apple Watch 3 screen

Hottest leaks:

  • A Micro-LED display

We wouldn't expect the size or shape of the screen to change for the Apple Watch Series 3, so expect a square 1.65-inch display. 

It's likely to still be OLED too, especially now that Apple is rumored to be moving towards that tech for the iPhone 8, and it offers such great technological benefits.

Apple Watch 2

On the other hand, it's also been rumored Apple is considering Micro-LED panels for its next generation wearable. These are brighter and more power efficient than OLED, but they also tend to be more expensive.

Whatever the technology, there's a good chance that the resolution will remain at 390 x 312, as Apple rarely seems in any hurry to up the resolution of its devices.

Saying that, this is one area which could stand to be improved, as while the Apple Watch 2 has a fairly crisp display it's not quite pin-sharp, which isn't ideal given that analogue watches don't have to worry about this issue, and Apple would love to be the equal (or better) of anything in that market.

TechRadar's take: Apple is sure to improve the screen in some ways, be it a jump in resolution or changing the display technology, but don't expect big changes.

Apple Watch 3 design

Hottest leaks:

  • A platinum or Liquidmetal case
  • A smart band

While the general shape and style of the Apple Watch 3 probably won't be much different to the Apple Watch 2, certain aspects of the design could change substantially.

Apple Watch smart strap

For one thing, there's an Apple patent detailing a smart fabric wristband that could act as an extra display, showing the time or simple notifications. We're wary of patents as they often don't turn into anything, but this would be a clever way to extend the otherwise small screen of the Apple Watch.

We could also see new materials used in the case. Apple added a ceramic option for the Apple Watch Series 2, but there have been whispers of a titanium or platinum case, as reported by Apple Insider, and there have long been rumors of Apple working with Liquidmetal, which would be excellent for a timepiece.

It's also possible that the Apple Watch 3 will be smaller and slimmer than current models. One recent rumor suggests the Apple Watch 3 may also be thinner because it could move the haptic sensor to the strap of the watch.

Another patent even details a plan to include modular functionality on the strap of the watch. It means you can add extra battery, biometric sensors, speakers, cameras or even solar cells to charge the device when out and about. 

It would also let you swap out features to make sure your device doesn't age so quickly.

On the other hand, the Apple Watch 2 is actually marginally thicker than the first generation, so Apple might choose to pack more tech in instead of slimming it down.

One thing that probably won't change is the fact it's water-resistant. This was a major new feature for the Apple Watch 2 and we'd be very surprised if Apple removed it for the Apple Watch 3.

TechRadar's take: One or more new case materials are likely to be added, but most of the current ones will probably remain. The overall look of the Watch is unlikely to change much.

Apple Watch 3 camera and battery

Hottest leaks:

  • A FaceTime camera

The Apple Watch Series 2 doesn't have a camera, but the Apple Watch Series 3 might. It's a feature which was at one point rumored for the Apple Watch 2, allowing you to make and receive FaceTime calls, so it's possible that the idea will be resurrected for the Apple Watch 3.

Battery life on the Apple Watch 2 is a solid two days – much improved from the daily charge of the original Apple Watch, and while there's no news on the Apple Watch 3's battery life it seems unlikely that it would be any worse. 

With multiple firms getting involved with e-ink or monochrome LCD displays for smartwatches, we can only hope that Apple might do the same by fusing a low-power screen with a high-resolution display, getting the best of both worlds.

TechRadar's take: A FaceTime camera doesn't seem like it would be a priority feature, but may be included if Apple can fit one in without sacrificing much else. Expect at least two days of battery life, possibly longer.

Apple Watch 3 OS and power

Depending on when it launches the Apple Watch 3 will likely run either watchOS 4 or watchOS 5. There's no news yet on what features these might include, but Apple is likely to further work on optimizing performance.

Apple Watch 2

That should also be helped by a new processor, which will probably be called the S3. It's likely to be a dual-core chip, much like the S2 in the Apple Watch 2, but will presumably be significantly faster.

TechRadar's take: The Apple Watch 3 will run whatever the latest version of watchOS happens to be when it launches – probably watchOS 4. You can expect snappier performance too.

Apple Watch 3 other features

Hottest leaks:

  • Phone-free cellular capabilities

Apple added GPS to the Apple Watch 2, so you can track your runs without a phone, but with the Apple Watch 3 the company might go one better and allow it to work completely independently of an iPhone.

We're not just talking fully standalone apps, but also potentially its own SIM card, allowing access to mobile data and the ability to call and text even if you've left your phone at home.

Supposedly Apple considered these sorts of features for the Apple Watch 2, but found them too much of a drain on the battery. If the company can overcome that problem this could become the main selling point of the Apple Watch 3.

TechRadar's take: Cellular capabilities could be the big feature the Apple Watch 3 needs to really stand out from previous models, so this is likely to be something Apple will try to include.

Apple Watch 3 price

The original Apple Watch started at $349/£299/AU$499 when it launched, and the Apple Watch 2 upped the prices to $369/£369/AU$529.

So far there aren't any price rumors for the Apple Watch 3, but it's likely to stay at roughly around the same price as the Apple Watch 2, as although the prices went up between the first and second generations we'd think the Watch 3 might struggle to sell if it starts much higher.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps.