What watchOS 4 tells us about the Apple Watch 3


Lo and behold, there was no Apple Watch 3 announcement at the WWDC 2017 keynote. Before you get too disappointed, there are plenty of reasons to get excited about watchOS 4, the new software update that will roll out to all Apple Watch models later this year.

In addition to keeping current users happy with some fitness improvements and very cool kaleidoscopic and Toy Story watch faces, the update tells us a lot about what the Apple Watch 3 might be like: what it will double-down on, what will be completely new and what it might leave behind.

Even though there wasn’t an Apple Watch 3 announcement, we can start to see the product take shape just by looking closely at some of the tweaks coming in the latest software to hit Apple’s wearable platform. 

Brace not for large changes, but small ones 

Last year’s step from Apple Watch Series 1 to Apple Watch 2 was a minor one, but it brought new features that could easily convince owners to upgrade. A faster chipset, longer-lasting battery and waterproofing were on our wishlist for the successor, so in that regard, it didn’t disappoint. In many ways, it’s exactly what the Apple Watch needed.

While a complete rethinking of the Apple Watch may arrive at some point in the future, don’t expect it in the Apple Watch 3. The announcement of watchOS 4 shows us that Apple has its sight on setting the Apple Watch even further apart from its competition in small, but meaningful ways.

You can expect upgrades to the next Apple Watch’s speed and battery duration, which will help you best take advantage of the enhanced fitness capabilities of watchOS 4, and the built-in GPS feature that debuted in the Apple Watch 2. 

 A smarter Apple Watch 

Machine learning. This buzzword-y phrase is becoming a huge part of Apple’s business, if the amount of times it was uttered at WWDC 2017 is any indication. Based on what we’ve seen, going to be big in iOS 11, so it’s relatively safe to assume that Apple will be putting some of it into watchOS 4, too.

Look for the Apple Watch 3 to be a more proactive assistant, helping to remind you of things that you have going on and maybe even suggesting that you go on a run depending on the amount of free time you have. The possibilities extend beyond task-based activities, but to how the hardware behaves.

Battery life, for instance, is such a tricky thing for manufacturers to tackle in a wearable because there’s only so much space inside. But with machine learning, the Apple Watch 3 could defy those odds by using these smarts to fine-tune its battery, thus extending the uptime depending all on your unique usage patterns. 

An Apple Watch that loves water even more

Not being able to jump into the water was one of the biggest annoyances about the original Apple Watch. Thankfully, that’s not as much of a problem with the Apple Watch 2. Since it launched, it’s one of few smartwatches that not only encourages you to take a dive, but it can provide swimming exercise metrics, too.

Even so, today’s Apple Watch can’t stand up to large changes in water pressure. So, anyone who dives in the deep sea will need to remove it before going under. 

Given Apple’s heavy lean on making workouts more robust in watchOS 4, it will likely want to hang onto its crown for giving swimmers the tools to track activity underwater. With this in mind, look for the Apple Watch 3 to make improvements in the hardware department to make this so.

A talkative wearable

Siri is coming to watchOS 4, but not in the way you’d expect. Unlike the many Android Wear 2.0 smartwatches that allow you to chat with the Google Assistant, the new software won’t open up communication on your Apple Watch.

Instead, Siri will pump all of your calendar events and pertinent information cards to its own watch face that will debut with watchOS 4. This feature is coming to all Apple Watch models, but it’s possible that the next iteration of the wearable will enable the long-awaited arrival of Siri in full fashion. 

A much better (and bigger) battery

One of watchOS 4’s highlighted features is the kaleidoscopic watch face. While undeniably cool, all that comes to mind is how quickly that will waste a bunch of battery life.

High up on our wishlist for the Apple Watch 3 is a bigger battery that can handle these cool effects without a big drop in life expectancy. As mentioned earlier, Apple is working against the constraints of the watch’s size, so there’s not much room left to explore.

So, let us then hope that the next Apple Watch will have a better, smarter battery. Equipped with some machine learning smarts, it’d be a big plus if the new software could educate users on how to maximize their battery. Have your daily run coming up later today? Maybe watchOS 4 would then tell you that running the kaleidoscope watch face isn’t such a wise move. 

Core Bluetooth: what more could it mean?

Apple announced that it’s opening up the Bluetooth feature of its Apple Watch models to pair with compatible accessories, all without the need of an iPhone nearby.

Among the use cases mentioned were sporting accessories, like smart tennis rackets and surf boards, as well as glucose monitors. It’s cool to see the Apple Watch gain a little more independence after getting the built-in GPS sensor last year. 

This is all fine and dandy, but could it mean something more for the Apple Watch 3? Head in the sky here, but with core Bluetooth feature in full effect, the Apple Watch 3 could be the first model to work with (wait for it) an Android phone. 

Android Wear surprised a lot of people by added limited capability with iOS. Then, with the arrival of Android Wear 2.0, it brought even more functionality to watches and didn’t strip away any of the new and exciting features for iPhone users.

Apple isn’t exactly one for playing nice with the competition, but that lack of cross-compatibility is the reason that millions of Android owners are holding out on an Apple Watch. Maybe the Apple Watch 3 will be the first to extend a hand to Android users. That’s a big “maybe”.