If Apple's next watch is built for extreme sports, it'll need an extreme redesign

Apple Watch for running
(Image credit: Kanut Photo / Shutterstock)

One of the main selling points of this year's Apple Watch 7 was its tougher screen and improved dust resistance, and new rumors suggest that Apple is planning to take this idea further, with an extra rugged watch designed for extreme sports athletes.

The hint comes from Bloomberg technology journalist Mark Gurman, whose latest Power On newsletter is packed with hints as to what might be coming from Apple in 2022, including potential new designs for the iPad Pro and Macbook Pro.

A rugged sports watch would be a logical step for the company, which has been pushing fitness hard over the last couple of years. Its subscription-based workout service, Apple Fitness Plus, launched in December 2020, and although there are lots of rivals vying for your attention (including Peloton, Fitbit Premium, and the new Amazon Halo Fitness service to name just a few), Apple's instructors have been sweating hard to win you over, with new sessions added to the library every week.

Apple Fitness Plus on an iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch

The Apple Watch is central to Apple Fitness Plus, streaming your heart rate and estimated calorie burn to the screen of your Apple TV or iPad (Image credit: Apple)

The Apple Watch is key to Fitness Plus, presenting your heart rate on screen as you work out in your living room, but it makes sense for Apple to venture beyond the home, and create tougher wearables for use in the great outdoors.

However, while a more robust version of the Apple Watch's existing case would be an improvement, that's not the only feature that makes a good athletic watch – particularly for extreme sports.

When the going gets tough...

Firstly, Apple might consider shifting away from aluminum, stainless steel, and titanium to carbon fiber, as used in Casio's G-Shock watches. This would keep weight down, and it could be molded in one piece as a monocoque case to minimize potential points of failure.

We'd also want to see improved water resistance. The Apple Watch 7 is water resistant to a depth of 50 meters, which is fine for regular shallow water swimming, but for extreme sports, Apple should be thinking deeper. Its new wearable doesn't need to be a full-on diving watch, but we'd like to see something on a par with the Polar Grit X, which is water resistant to 100m.

Man's wrist wearing Apple Watch submerged in a swimming pool

Existing Apple Watch models are fine for shallow water swimming, but a watch for 'extreme' sports needs better water resistance (Image credit: Anicka S / Shutterstock)

Next on out wish list: physical buttons. Apple's Digital Crown is a pleasure to use, enabling you to smoothly scroll through menus and making it easy to select options, but many of the Apple Watch's features rely on its touchscreen, which isn't ideal when you're wearing gloves, or have water or mud on your hands. It would be a big departure in the looks department, but the ability to lock the touchscreen and use a set of buttons around the watch's bezel would be a real boon.

Possibly controversially, some form of memory-in-pixel display would also be a winner. Hear us out… while the Apple Watch's AMOLED display is stunning, it's an enormous drain on battery life. Many sports watches last at least a week between charges, which is essential for multi-day events, or when you're camping under the stars. To compete, Apple may need to compromise on its display offering. 

On a similar note, it would be great to see new customizable power-saving modes that allow you to fine-tune your watch's features, and disable any you don't use in order to conserve battery life.

If Apple implemented all of these features the resulting device wouldn't really be an Apple Watch at all. It would be something completely different – but perhaps that's the next step the company needs to take if it's going to maintain a firm foothold in the fitness space.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of TechRadar's sister site Advnture. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better)