- Apple plans to release a version of its smartwatch this year that can connect directly to cellular networks, a move designed to reduce the device's reliance on the iPhone, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News. Current versions of the watch need to be wirelessly connected to an iPhone to stream music, download directions in maps and send messages while on the go.
- Some Apple Watch models will come equipped with LTE chips that can handle tasks without an iPhone in range. Intel will supply the LTE modems for the new watch, while Qualcomm has been the main modem supplier for iPhones and other Apple mobile gadgets, but the two companies are currently embroiled in a legal dispute.
- While the smartwatch release may be delayed, Apple is in talks with carriers in the U.S. and Europe about offering the cellular version. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile plan to sell the device in the U.S.
The Apple Watch makes up just a small part of the company's revenue, but CEO Tim Cook said last week it's the best-selling smartwatch "by a very wide margin," as sales of the device grew more than 50% from a year earlier. In the larger wearables category, which includes cheaper fitness bands, Apple ranks third behind Xiaomi and Fitbit, according to researcher Strategy Analytics. Apple doesn't publicize its sales numbers for the Watch like it does for iPhones, iPads and Macs.
Making the Apple Watch a standalone mobile device may help to boost its sales, although battery life could likely be a lingering limitation. Last year, Apple sold some new models with a GPS chip that let the device track travel distances without a nearby phone. The company planned to release an LTE-capable model last year, but chose to hold off due to battery life issues, Bloomberg News reported.
Apple is also planning software changes for the device this fall. WatchOS 4 will have more Siri voice-enabled features, the ability to connect to gym equipment, send payments in iMessage and display news stories, Apple said in June at its Worldwide Developers Conference. As voice-activated assistants take on a larger role in marketing, expanding Siri's abilities on the Apple Watch could open a new window for brands which have previously had trouble navigating the device's highly limited screen real estate.
Apple plans to debut three new iPhone models this fall, including one with a revamped design and a 3-D facial recognition scanner for unlocking the device, per Bloomberg News.