Apple Watch Series 8: will Series 9 have a connectivity upgrade?
This fall, Apple is expected to release Apple Watch Series 10. But there’s a feature which has been missing in every single Apple Watch since the launch of the first one in Spring 2015. A new report claims it’s on its way.
May 2 update below. This post was first published on April 29, 2023.
May 2 update. Not every update brings welcome news, and that includes for Apple Watch. An updated version of the Apple Watch Ultra, first released last fall, has been rumored for some time. Nothing surprising in that. But what is less certain is if or when the Ultra will change its display technology. Currently, all models of Apple Watch use OLED for their screens, but it’s reported that this will be updated to microLED, a technology which could offer greater brightness and higher pixel density. Exciting.
But it’s the timing which is most volatile, it seems. It’s really been all over the place, with the earliest rumored arrival being this year. I was always skeptical of this: Apple has never introduced an Apple Watch design one year only to change it significantly the next, throughout the history of the smartwatch.
Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has previously said that microLED is coming, and suggested that the second half of 2024 was when we should expect it. This seems much more likely, and it doesn’t rule out an update to the Ultra this fall as well, though this would likely be focused on a processor update. Although it’s possible the current model could have a two-year lifespan, there would be something odd if the Series 10 has a new processor while the top-flight Ultra has last year’s chip.
Anyway, the latest report changes things again. Ross Young, the display analyst, has tweeted that the new display technology will come later still. Here’s the link to the tweet, but you need to be a subscriber to Young’s content to see it. The gist is that microLED will come to Apple Watch Ultra in fall 2025. More than two years away, then, a long way off.
This sounds entirely plausible: it will be far from the first time that Apple has had to postpone the introduction of a new technology to one of its devices, after all.
There’s another question to be answered: will Apple introduce microLED to the Apple Watch Ultra only, or to all its models at the same time? While it’s true that in the early days of Apple Watch the only difference between the cheapest and most expensive models was just the metal casing, the Ultra broke the mold by introducing an entirely different design. Will it mean that new screen tech will land on the Ultra first, and only for other models later on? We don’t know yet, though this seems the most likely to me.
Plenty of time for full details to become apparent between now and late 2025, of course.
April 30 update. Hot on the heels of the latest rumor comes a report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. According to Gurman in his latest Power On newsletter, the way you use your Apple Watch is going to change significantly with the arrival of watchOS 10, likely the platform on which the syncing feature below is going to launch.
Gurman says Apple is “set to give its watch lineup one of the biggest software updates since the original version — with a new focus on widgets and fundamental changes to how the device works.” This is intriguing, and Gurman says it’s designed so that you can get more information with the least amount of navigation. It’s appropriate that saving time is a priority on a gadget such as a watch, of course.
The widgets focus harks back to the Glances interface found on the first Apple Watch but long since discontinued. As Gurman points out, “Apps remained core to the Apple Watch. The best way to get information on the device — besides viewing watch-face complications — is still to launch apps. To make that as easy as possible, the home screen is accessible with a single press of the Digital Crown, the watch’s most prominent button.”
But with watchOS 10, it seems widgets will come back and be central to the experience, perhaps even meaning that a single Digital Crown press will take you to the widgets, not the home screen. “The plan is to let users scroll through a series of different widgets — for activity tracking, weather, stock tickers, calendar appointments and more — rather than having them launch apps,” Gurman explains.
If this sounds like a big change, that’s because it is. So big, that it may be that such a change, such as the Digital Crown change, could be optional at first.
It’s thought that the big updates this year for the Watch will be software-based, and this would certainly be a dramatic change.
According to the Twitter account of @analyst941, who describes themselves as an Apple software analyst, a future Apple Watch could sync to multiple Apple devices. Here’s why that matters.
Right now, although you can sync more than one Apple Watch to your iPhone, each Watch can only be paired to one phone. Which means that if you don’t have an iPhone, but you do have an iPad and/or a Mac, you can’t even set up an Apple Watch.
Of course, that’s because Apple loves to keep you safe inside its walled-garden ecosystem, and the company would say that’s to protect the user experience.
However, if you could sync your Apple Watch to an iPad or Mac, then a whole new series of options becomes apparent.
If you have more than one phone, even if they’re both iPhones, you can only pair your Apple Watch to one of them. If one of those iPhones is for work and the other for personal stuff, then you need to carry the one that the Watch is paired with to ensure it remains up to date with notifications, for instance.
Here’s what @analyst941 said in their tweet: “Apple Watch can sync across more than one Apple device too, finally. I don’t know how this will be implemented. All I know, again, **ALL** I know, is that Apple Watch will sync across multiple iOS/iPadOS/Mac devices, and will no longer be tied to one single iPhone.”
No details, then, on how it will be achieved or how it will work, but it’s a good move. Remember how much freer it felt wearing the Apple Watch once it gained LTE connectivity in some models?
Will watchOS 10 bring multi-device connectivity to Apple Watch Ultra?
It’s also not clear whether you will still need an iPhone for the initial set-up. I’d have thought a companion iPad might work, but maybe not a Mac. I feel confident that the Apple Watch is not about to pair with an Android phone.
As 9to5Mac points out, a recent report that the Health app on the iPhone is about to appear on the iPad with iPadOS 17 might suggest that set-up with an iPad is coming.
Whatever the set-up procedure, the key benefit will be the addition of syncing with multiple Apple devices. In fact, the only downside I can see is the one that many new users come across: information overload until you adjust exactly which email accounts and so on will send data to the Watch. But that’s easily fixed.
We’ll almost certainly get a clue to this at WWDC in June, though full implementation may be held back until the release of Apple Watch Series 10 this fall. Either way, it’s likely to be a watchOS 10 feature which will work with more than one generation of Watch.
Apple Watch Series 8: will Series 9 have a connectivity upgrade?