The battle for our wrists is hotting up, as Apple, Google and Samsung all have or are expected to launch new smartwatches in the coming weeks.
Samsung revealed the Galaxy Watch at a media event this week, while Google is said to be showing off its first own-brand smartwatch, likely called the Pixel Watch, in the autumn - and Apple’s Watch Series 4 is expected to join the party around the same time.
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Apple's biggest competition for your wrist? The Samsung Galaxy Watch, which was announced this week with several days battery life, and improved fitness features.
APPLE WATCH SERIES 4 RELEASE DATE
All eyes will be on Apple’s traditional September iPhone event, as this is where we expect to see the Watch Series 4 break cover. With the third iteration arriving on 12 September 2017, and the Series 2 landing 7 September a year earlier, we wouldn’t bet against the fourth model arriving next month.
APPLE WATCH SERIES 4 PRICE
We don’t know what the exact price will be just yet – or rather, the price range, as there will surely be many variations to pick from. But with the Watch Series 3 starting at £329, we can expect the Series 4 to hit a similar price point.
Of course, as with the current model, you can expect Apple to offer a wide range of colors and strap designs, with the price heading northwards of £1,200 for the ceramic Edition model.
APPLE WATCH SERIES 4 DESIGN AND HARDWARE
The current Apple Watch’s design is almost identical to the very first model, which launched all the way back in 2015. For the Watch Series 4, though, Apple is expected to shake things up a bit.
According to the often-accurate tech analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the Series 4 will feature a display which is 15% larger than the current mode - and that goes for both the 38mm and 42mm versions. This means the 38mm Watch will see its display stretch from 1.31 inches to 1.57 inches, and the 42mm model will swell from 1.54 inches to 1.78 inches - at least, according to Kuo.
But this does not mean the size of the watch cases will increase - they are expected to remain at 38mm and 42mm, which means all of the existing straps and accessories should still fit – although you might need to invest in a new screen protector.
Ensuring customers can continue to use their current straps is crucial, given how luxury options from the likes of Hermes can cost hundreds of pounds each.
Larger screens should help make using the Apple Watch feels less claustrophobic, as even prodding at today’s 42mm model can be tricky.
Kuo also believes the Watch’s battery will get larger for Series 4, which could mean the case growing ever-so-slightly. As long as those original straps still fit, we can’t see there being too many complaints, especially given the Apple Watch has always been one of the more compact smartwatches on the market.
An extra little detail from Kuo is that the Series 4 will offer a “more trendy form factor” than previous models. There has been no elaboration on what this could mean, or if it refers to the cases as well as the straps Apple plans to offer.
That said, a report by Fast Company cites a source with “direct knowledge of Apple’s plans” as saying an upcoming Watch will get motionless haptic buttons, freeing up interior space for a larger battery.
Just like how the iPhone lost its physical home button in favour of a haptic equivalent powered by Apple’s Taptic Engine, it is claimed the Watch’s digital crown and side button will get the same treatment – but with the crown still rotating as before.
This not only frees up space inside, but should also help make the Watch more water resistant, and prevent the buttons from jamming up with dirt. However, the report’s source isn’t sure if these haptic buttons will arrive in time for the Series 4 this year, or if Apple will hold fire on them until the Series 5 in 2019.
Despite plenty of the usual patent gossip to keep us exited – even including one which suggests Apple is working on a round-faced watch – we are yet to see any leaked images or legitimate renders of the Watch Series 4. Given the Watch’s design hasn’t changed in three years, we suspect the slightly larger displays will be as far as Apple goes for 2018.
APPLE WATCH SERIES 4 FEATURES
Kuo’s earlier speculation also claims the next-generation Apple Watch will feature improved heart rate monitoring abilities. Although he failed to go into any more detail, we can definitely see this happening - especially as Apple has made a very conscious effort over the last couple of years to position the Watch as a health and fitness device as much as a notification machine and a piece of fashionable tech.
Although we don’t know exactly what this will entail, it was reported back in March that Apple is working on a way to turn the Watch into a medical-grade heart rate tracker.
This, according to Bloomberg, would involve squeezing the frame of the watch with two fingers of the hand not wearing it. The watch would then pass a current across your chest to track the electrical signals in your heart, helping the gadget detect any irregularities which could be a sign of heart disease.
Giving the Watch Series 4 a bonafide EKG could be a huge selling point over Apple’s rivals, but it remains to be seen if the feature will arrive in this year’s model, or at a later date.
Another glimpse of what Apple has in store for future versions of the Watch appeared in a patent, filed by Apple in December 2017 and published by the US Patent and Trademark Office in July this year, describing the concept of smart watch straps.
The patent outlines a device capable of detecting the amount of infrared light reflected from your skin, which can be used as an indication of whether you have applied enough sunscreen. Described as being a piece of technology with a portable device suggests it will be an accessory rather than part of the Watch itself, leading us to believe it could be incorporated into the strap.
APPLE WATCH SERIES 4 SOFTWARE
Because of how Apple shows off its upcoming software at the annual WWDC event in June, we already a good idea of what watchOS 5 will look like – and therefore, the features which will be a part of the Apple Watch Series 4.
Although there is nothing here which won’t also come to the Watch Series 3, it’s still worth us quickly covering the big new features.
These include a new way to make exercising social, sharing your weekly achievements with friends; all-new yoga and hiking workout options, and pace alerts for your longer runs.
Away from fitness, watchOS 5 also includes a new walkie-talkie mode, where you can chat with another Apple Watch user by tapping on the screen – the future really is here, ladies and gentlemen.
There’s also an enhanced version of Siri which works with some third-party apps like Citymapper and fitness apps, an improved notifications system, and the Do Not Disturb feature we’ve all previously seen on the iPhone.
All of this will be released in the autumn (likely just after the Watch Series 4 goes on sale), and will be available to owners of the Apple Watch Series 1, 2 and 3 - but not the original model from 2015.
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