Although Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) only recently made the first Apple Watch available at its retail stores, a new report from 9to5Mac, citing "multiple sources familiar with Apple's plans," already has some details on what the company plans to deliver with its next-generation smartwatch.
Pacific Crest's Andy Hargreaves recently said the Apple Watch needs a "dramatic increase in functionality" in order to increase sales to hit his firm's unit sales projections for 2016.
Will Apple deliver the improvement that Pacific Crest's analyst thinks customers want? Only time will tell, but for now let's look at what features 9to5Mac says are coming to this new-and-improved Watch.
FaceTime makes its way to the Apple Watch
9to5Mac says the Apple Watch 2 will feature a FaceTime video camera embedded into the device's top bezel. This seems like a fairly straightforward addition that should dramatically improve the device's utility.
If you love your Watch, set it free
9to5Mac says Apple is trying to make the second-generation Apple Watch more useful when it's not being used with an iPhone. To facilitate this, Apple is said to be including a more advanced Wi-Fi chip that will enable "basic communication tasks" to be "handled without iPhone assistance."
Apple will also enable a feature called "Find my Watch" that will "be able to track Apple Watches using Wi-Fi router triangulation technology instead of GPS," 9to5Mac reports.
Cowen and Co. analyst Timothy Arcuri said in a note published in March that a next-generation Apple Watch could be coming later this year that "will not require iPhone tethering for full connectivity."
For complete independence from iPhone, Apple probably would need to give the device cellular capabilities rather than just an improved Wi-Fi chip. It will be interesting to see if further Apple Watch 2 leaks suggest the inclusion of cellular capabilities.
No need to significantly improve battery life
9to5Mac says that, in research conducted by Apple, customers are "satisfied with charging their Apple Watches nightly." This, according to the report, enables Apple's engineers to "change their hardware priorities for future Apple Watch models."
As an owner of an Apple Watch myself (albeit for only a few days), I can say that the device has, so far, lasted for a full day without needing a charge. And, since I can't actually use the device while I'm asleep, charging it at night isn't really an inconvenience. I think as long as Apple doesn't cause battery life to decline from here and can add compelling new features, this is the right way to go.
Instead of obsessing over improving battery life, Apple reportedly is now focusing on keeping battery life flat to slightly up while delivering "more advanced hardware features." For one thing, by keeping battery life constant, Apple can be more aggressive in improving the performance of the processor, adding more robust connectivity features (maybe even cellular connectivity down the line), and more.
More variants in a wider range of price points
The report also says Apple is considering expanding its portfolio of Apple Watch variants beyond the three main families available today. The report suggests Apple could bring in models using the current materials at different price points or entirely new materials to satisfy price points in the $1,000 to $10,000 range.
OK, so when will we see it?
Although 9to5Mac points out that there have been reports of "minor hardware upgrades" in store for later this year, the report says Apple will probably wait for 2016 for a true next-generation Apple Watch.
My guess is that, as with other Apple products, the company will iterate the Apple Watch at a yearly clip. Since the first Apple Watch was "launched" in late April, it stands to reason that Apple Watch 2 might show up in March or April 2016.