An Apple fanboy with degrees in Computer Sc. and Engg and passion for digital health and Fitness.
Popular Apple analyst, Ming-Chi Kuo suggested in a note last September that we should expect a new Apple Watch design. The new Apple Watch Series 7 with significant changes could come as early as 2021. We set out to look at recent Apple research on Apple Watch and found six features that have solid potential for the Apple Watch to make big waves in the wearable industry.
Some of these ideas are based on recent Apple patent publications, while others are based on supply chain rumors from far East.
A Transformation of The Apple Watch Band That is Long Overdue
For the last 15 years since the introduction of the original Apple Watch in 2005, the Apple Watch band has functionally remained the same. New materials have been added and new latch designs introduced but the functionality of the band has essentially stayed the same.
This could change with a significant re-design of the Apple Watch, given the amount of unused space available on the band.
More Battery Power via the Band (Probability - High)
Although Apple has improved the battery performance of the Apple Watch over the past few years, users are always looking for more battery power between charges. To solve this problem, Apple could easily add backup battery provision to the band.
A future watch band could include an inner frame with multiple slots, each slot configured to house a battery. The band will have the capability to transfer power to the Apple Watch when the low power signal is detected.
This is not a far-fetched idea since Apple already has experience in developing backup power via accessories for iPhone and could increase the appeal of the watch to new users. Research on this idea started in 2017 and we have seen new patents along this line of thinking.
Apple is not alone in thinking about utilizing the watch band for energy storage. Google has been researching along the same lines according to a recent patent published this week.
Watch Band with Optical Sensor (Probability - Low)
An older research, originally filed in 2016 and has yet make it to the Apple Watch. The idea here is to attach an optical sensor (camera) to the Apple Watch band. The Apple Watch display would serve as the viewfinder when a user uses the flexible camera band to capture a photo.
Given that there is already a third-party product called Cameracast that provides this feature at an incredibly high price point of $250, Apple would probably not introduce this feature unless it can engineer this at a more affordable price point.
Apple Watch band could also gain additional sensors that help with health monitoring.
A Thinner Apple Watch (Probability - High)
This is more likely given that Apple is thinking about significant design changes to the upcoming release. One of the main reasons why it is difficult to make a thinner version of a smartwatch is because a smartwatch has optical sensors on the back of the unit and they protrude outwards in order to help with getting a reading on the PPG sensor.
More importantly, the battery inside the watch consumes a lot of space making it harder for designers to offer a watch that has all the new functionality and offer a long battery life between charges.
Apple is approaching this problem differently.
Recent Apple research shows that the Cupertino giant may be looking at fabricating the watch internals by building in the PPG sensors directly into the core electronics. Instead of having the sensors stick out, the LED and photo-diode sensors will be built-in into the main circuit housing.
A New Energy Efficient Watch Display (Probability - High )
A transition to Micro-LED / Mini-LED display for Apple products is very likely given the news coverage around the company’s supply chain.
According to Taiwan supply chain news, Apple is teaming up on the new factory with Epistar, Taiwan's top LED producer, and Taiwanese LCD panel maker, AU Optronics. The plant will be located in the Longtan branch of the Hsinchu Science Park and Apple's total investment is estimated at NT$10 billion (US$334 million).
Apple has long been expected to use of Mini-LED and Micro LED across a range of products, including at times the 2020 Apple Watch, and now a future refresh of the 16-inch MacBook Pro.
Like OLED, micro-LED is self-luminous. However, compared with OLED, micro-LED can support a higher brightness, higher dynamic range, and wider color gamut, all the while achieving a faster update rate, wider viewing angle, and lower power consumption, all qualities favored by Apple. A Micro-LED display on the Apple Watch 7 would probably be the biggest change to the Apple Watch in 2021.
New Health and Wellness offerings (Probability - High)
We have noticed a long list of partnerships and clinical trials in 2020 where Apple Watch is being used for early COVID detection, post-surgery rehab via partnership with ZimmerBiomet, prediction of Heart failure study in collaboration with UNH and more.
The software-as-a-medical-device (SaMD) area is ripe for Apple’s new innovation. It is very likely that we will see blood pressure monitoring on the Series 7. The functionality already exists on the Samsung Galaxy Watch. There has also been rumors that the next Apple Watch and the Samsung Galaxy Watch will feature non-invasive blood glucose monitoring.
This is very much possible since Apple has been exploring the use of Thz (Thera-hertz) Raman Spectroscopy for detection of biomarkers.
A Japanese company, Quantum Operatin Inc. already showcased a non-invasive blood glucose monitoring at the 2021 CES, hence, it is not farfetched to imagine that Apple could incorporate a version of it in the upcoming Apple Watch 7.
Given the stringent FDA standards for disease diagnosis, non-invasive blood glucose monitoring could be a hard feat to achieve. It is more likely that we will see some type of glucose monitoring feature that will get refined in a year or two.
Apple Watch Series 7 could also be the first watch to help people who have dementia. The company has been working with Biogen to understand the biomarkers related to early dementia onset symptoms and recently published research by Apple researchers showcases the potential around working with Parkinson’s disease use cases.
The work Apple is doing at UCI (University of California, Irvine) to detect early onset of Asthma symptoms using the Apple Watch will also play an important role in the offering of a new health monitoring service on the next Apple Watch.
Fitness+ offerings to get additional bells and whistles
Apple’s new Fitness+ exercise platform has become a hit. Apple has successfully integrated the Apple Watch into its streaming offerings for fitness enthusiasts. We expect 2021 to bring additional fitness service options integrated via the Apple Watch.
The current Fitness streaming options are very one-directional in that you don’t get too much feedback other than a few simple metrics. This is expected to change as Apple launches a personalized and automated Fitness and coaching service. We have seen the published work from Jay Blahnik and his Fitness+ team which highlights how the Watch will become integral in motivating user behavior.
Based on your Fitness goals, your Apple Watch will be able to guide you through different workouts and adjust the frequency and duration based on the history of your cardio fitness level metric and other related metrics.
2021 sounds like a promising year for Apple Watch fans.
As more and more users are adopting Apple’s wearables and the product segment experiences massive growth, Apple is seriously evaluating new features and form factor that is expected to appeal to the 100 million Apple Watch users worldwide.
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