Saturday, September 23, 2023

Apple Watch ‘Pro’ needs fresh design, multi-day battery to stand out

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At this point, a rugged Apple Watch “Pro” is almost officially confirmed. We didn’t just start hearing whispers from this device more than a year ago but also the rumor mill has been increasing lately by new details on possible specifications and features. The latest is that the Pro can offer several days of battery life on a single charge, as well as the Apple Watch’s first serious redesign… ever. And if Apple really wants to compete with Garmin and Polar, it needs both.

Latest news comes courtesy of Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman in his most recent Switch newsletter. In it Gurman states: the Pro model will be a “little bigger than the standard Apple Watch” — to the point where it might only appeal to a “subset of customers.” In addition, he notes that the fresh look of the device will be an “evolution of the current rectangular shape”. (Although without the flat bezels once rumored to be heavy for the Series 7.) Finally, the Pro model could potentially last for several days thanks to a larger battery and power-saving mode, as well as a more durable type of titanium to make it “extra rugged.”

Apple hasn’t significantly changed the design of the Apple Watch since 2018 with the Series 4 – and even then the changes weren’t a big departure from the Series 3. At that time, Apple increased the size of the Series 4 screen from 38mm and 42mm. mm to 40 mm and 44 mm. It also changed the red dot on the digital crown of mobile models to a more subtle red ring. Later models have also introduced flatter side buttons. So, seen that is what was a “redesign” in the past, the changes Gurman described suggest a more obvious visual change is on the way.

Apple Watch Series 7 shows the Create Workout screen for custom runs

watchOS 9 has a definite fitness leaning, adding credibility to rumors that we’ll see a robust Pro model.

A clear visual break with the past is needed if Apple wants a successful multisport smartwatch. From a product standpoint, a rugged Apple Watch that looks and functions too much like the standard Series 8 would cloud the water. Plus, it doesn’t really encourage people to spend more when you can already upgrade to more premium materials on the standard models. On the other hand, people who are attracted to multisport watches Like it a more outdoor atmosphere. Button protectors, large 47–50 mm screens and durable yet lightweight housing materials are hallmarks of this category. Adding at least some of those elements would make the Pro model feel like an Apple Watch that can take a beating. Apple should also consider opting for multiple buttons, as relying solely on the touchscreen and digital crown isn’t smart for an outdoor watch. Otherwise, there’s no obvious reason to choose the Pro over a Garmin or a regular Series 8.

Gurman’s comment that the size of the Pro model only appeals to a small group of people means we’re likely to see the largest Apple Watch ever: at least 47mm. That’s what ‘standard’ Garmin and Polar watches usually measure and would allow the Pro to house a much larger battery. And design aesthetics aside, could be several days of battery life the deciding factor as to whether a Pro model will actually compete in the multisport watch space.

Guaranteed or not, since 2015, people have been complaining about the Apple Watch’s battery. And no one cares more about a multi-day battery than outdoor athletes. watchOS 9 can add all the running stats and triathlete support it likes, but it’s no use if an athlete even has to think about pausing to recharge in hours five or six of an activity. Even the threat of your watch dying and not fully counting your activity is reason enough to shun Apple in favor of Garmin, Polar, or Coros. For multi-day activities or camping, carrying a charger for another device is even less attractive. It’s hard to believe the Pro will make it past 48 hours, but hitting at least 24 hours would go a long way in terms of credibility.

So far, the Pro model is going to be the most intriguing update to the Apple Watch in a while. But if Apple didn’t have a robust design and true multi-day battery life, all the advanced stats and features in the world wouldn’t make it an attractive product. Without these two aspects, Apple would probably repeat the mistake of the Apple Watch Edition – an expensive high-end watch that no one has asked for.

Photography by Victoria Song / The Verge

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