Future Features of the Apple Watch

While it may seem like a fruitless effort to predict the future of the Apple Watch, knowing what features existing owners are most interested in could present some clues. This is exactly what the Wristly team and I set out to do with our panel of Apple Watch owners. We have recently published the definitive “State of the Apple Watch” report and I encourage you to check that out for insights on the Apple Watch 1.0 era. This great research is only possible because of opt-in respondents, so if you have an Apple Watch and would love to participate please consider joining. Our goal with our latest survey was to understand what capabilities the Apple Watch doesn’t have today existing owners would like it to have in the future.

We gave our panelists a number of options for new features they would like in the next version of the Apple Watch. Here are their responses.

Ben 1

It turns out the watch’s independence from the iPhone would be quite valuable. This makes sense even with my own use cases – going out to dinner, out to run an errand or to a gathering, the ability to not have to bring my iPhone would be useful. The key to this feature is the option to leave the iPhone at home. Of course, this means the Apple Watch would need its own independent cellular connection. This could impact battery life, add another cellular connection fee, and possibly impact the size of the Watch. Despite this feature, likely still a few years away, it is good to know it is something strongly desired by existing Apple Watch owners.

It also appears existing Watch owners want the Watch to be more waterproof. Apple does not suggest or give a depth rating for submersing (It is IPX7 rated, which covers a depth of up to 1m) the Apple Watch though they indicate splashing with water is ok. So things like showering, running in the rain, etc., are ok but not swimming or fully submersing it. However, many reports have suggested the Apple Watch is much more waterproof than Apple suggests but it does not seem our panel is fully aware of this and is following Apple’s suggestion to not swim or submerge the Apple Watch. Our panel would certainly like to see Apple officially embrace making the Apple Watch much more water resistant, swimming and submersing features included. This suggests many Apple Watch owners simply don’t want to take it off no matter what they are doing.

Rounding out the top three of desired additional capabilities is blood pressure monitoring, contrasting this with something like blood sugar monitoring. Blood pressure is more generally useful in monitoring overall health, fitness, stress levels, and more which makes sense that the general consensus of our panel had this feature in the top three. Monitoring blood pressure from a device like a wrist wearable is still a ways off but advances in sensors are heading in this direction.

Taking pictures from the Apple Watch ranked lowest. We found this interesting, but not terribly shocking. This is one of those features that could be great but very hard to tell at this point. The concept of being able to get a picture of a moment without having to pull your phone out seems compelling. However, the camera on the wrist seems tricky ergonomically as it would need to be on the bottom of the strap in order to see the display well enough to frame the photo. The concept is sound, but it seems this feature is not interesting to our panel.

We also asked some questions of size and performance. Overwhelmingly, our panel wants the Apple Watch to be faster. 80% said this feature was Extremely/Very important. Apple seems to have the size of the Apple Watch about right as only 18% said they would like the Apple Watch larger. A thinner option may also be a reasonable form factor with a majority of our panel saying a thinner watch is somewhat important (40%) or extremely important (26%).

Ben 2

One of the great things about the Wristly research panel is the ability to survey real world Apple Watch owners and track their progress as they become more familiar with the product. While this was a high-level look at some features of interest for version 2.0 of the Watch, discovering what Apple Watch owners want in the future from their Apple Watch will be an ongoing focus of our research.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

25 thoughts on “Future Features of the Apple Watch”

  1. In the period between Apple Watch announcement and receiving my watch I thought independence from phone would be necessary for it to be really compelling. However, since using the watch it seems mostly unnecessary. I keep my phone in my pocket or on the counter most of the time. I don’t mind carrying it around or having it nearby as it’s hardly noticeable. And, when i really need the phone I have it. The thing I most want watch/phone independence for is working out so I don’t have to hold the phone. That is possible now. I go for runs without my phone. The watch records the workout and I listen to music with Bluetooth headphones. (This is one of the best use cases.)

    So, the trade offs of battery life and having to pay an additional cell connection fee not worth it for me.

    1. Thanks Craig. I’m sure your not alone. Will be interesting to see how Apple handles this. Qualcomm has run tests and they indicate the battery hit may only be around 10% but accounting for data only. LTE was built for data efficiency, it’s when you start taking phone calls the battery life comes.

      The additional costs will be interesting to see. I can see ways around this with a bundle or ways like Kindles do it where it doesn’t cost much.

        1. I hear Frito-Lay has some new Potato chip flavors in the works.

          Just thought I’d throw in something equally relevant.

          1. Well, sorry for not having iBlinkers on… The Applers seem to be taking as sci-fi features that are already available elsewhere, like the… 4 most requested iWatch features, in the S2. Thought it was worth mentionning, along with the +20% battery for 3G, to put the 10% for LTE-data in perspective.

        2. The rotating bezel is a neat idea, but clearly Samsung saw how clever the digital crown was and did their own take on it, borrowing of course from rotating bezels on analog watches (which have been around for a long, long time). I would think the rotating bezel means you’re stuck with a circular watch design. There’s a lot of interesting high end watches that aren’t circular. Of course Samsung might just do a digital crown if they ever want to do a non-circular watch that uses the same kind of interaction. Either way (digital crown or rotating bezel) you likely just move one finger along one point on the watch. Having to use a finger and a thumb or obscuring the screen while you have your hand over top of it to work the bezel seems much less ergonomic. Videos of the Apple Watch show people using it with one finger. I imagine Samsung’s bezel has a smooth enough action that it would be the same.

          Given how common rotating bezels are in the watch industry we can assume Apple considered it, however briefly (I imagine any idea of copying a diver’s watch bezel was discarded when Apple decided not to go circular). I wonder how a rotating bezel will hold up hardware-wise, seems more complex, harder to fix. Then again Samsung is pretty good at building things.

          1. Indeed, Samsung copied the rotating bezel, while Apple invented the rotating crown… … …

            I wouldn’t say “stuck with circular”, since circular has been the overwhelmingly preferred form factor for watches in general and high-end watches in particular since forever. Most smartwatch makers are also choosing circular, even with no rotating bezel, and even though it requires more work. Square watches are to watches what round glasses are to glasses.

            As for durability, I’d think a large wheel resting on a solid basement for all its girth is less exposed than a tiny nub that you either cumbersomely fiddle with with 2 fingers, or apply skewed force to with only one finger. Rotating bezel seems a much more durable design, as well as much more practical. Time will tell.

          2. I didn’t say Apple invented the rotating crown. Clearly Apple looked at existing watches and also borrowed from their own click wheel, the idea of using a bit of hardware to engage the UI in specific ways. That basic concept goes back years and years in a fair number of products (video games for example). But we can’t dismiss the work involved in layering that into a successful wearable UI. In that sense Apple did a lot of the work for Samsung. Let’s be honest, the S2 is taking a lot of cues from the Apple Watch. Which is fine, everyone borrows good ideas, Apple included.

            A square face has advantages platform-wise, but Apple could always create different watch designs. That’s the advantage of the digital crown. Some high end women’s watches have triangle faces. Some are more rectangular and long.

            I don’t see ergonomics as a concern for either, both the crown and the bezel are easily used with a single finger. My concern with the bezel is the fit and finish re: the case. I think we will see durability issues. The durability of the digital crown depends on how wide the base is. It looks very durable.

          3. Well, the digital crown is a knob, and indeed, knobs date a while back. I’d say Opera did a lot of the work for Apple and Samsung, with the very handy way the allow me to use my mousewheel to cycle though UI lists. Since the nineties. You seem to be wanting to force the rotating bezel into a copy of the digital crown, I don’t see it, neither physically (rotating crowns have been around forever) nor abstractly (both are variations on rotating something to cycle through a list.. that’s been around forever too).

            I’m not sure what advantages a square face has platform wise. Care to elaborate? I certainly find it less pleasing than round watches, as presumably do the 95+% (?) of dumbwatch buyers who choose round watches ? Especially since, has you so helpfully point out, there are other choices.

            If you don’t see the issue with a small knob on one side of the watch vs a large wheel going all around it… I really can’t help you. Maybe ask yourself how people who wear their watch on their right wrist can do ? Or why Apple didn’t use a crown on iPods ?

          4. Rotating hardware to engage a UI was happening before the 90s. Maybe you’re too young to know that?

            “both are variations on rotating something to cycle through a list.. that’s been around forever too”

            Yes, that’s what I said. So we agree that the digital crown and rotating bezel are implementations of the same concept. Since Samsung created their implementation second it naturally follows that they had the Apple Watch as a reference point, and the UI similarities can’t be denied. Again, this is fine, good ideas should be borrowed.

            It is quite easy to attach the digital crown in a thoroughly durable manner. It is also easy to make a rotating bezel quite durable. Both could be built in ways that make them flimsy. This is obvious. However, I can imagine more problems with a bezel that has to encompass the entire exterior of the screen. We might have Bezelgate sooner than you think. Or it may turn out that Samsung did a quality job with it.

            As for the right wrist, are you telling me you’re not aware that the Apple Watch can be set up for either wrist?

            EDIT: When you’re thinking about the bezel and the crown, they are essentially bearings, and a couple problems with bearings are wear and tear as well as debris and dust. Now imagine a large bearing with more travel facing up and sitting flat, and then imagine a smaller bearing on its side. As a farmer I know which one will wear out first.

    2. Craig Cramer

      I would like to ask you one thing about your Watch use…if you play a song on your Watch, does your play count go up on iTunes?

      My assumption is that it would not, because your watch never interacts with iTunes…but it *does* interact with your iPhone, so I’m wondering whether that data is updated on your iPhone, meaning that when you next sync your iPhone to your Mac (or PC), the data is transferred?

      Are you aware of this behaviour?

      I ask, because I ‘self-curate’ my iTunes library, and it’s reliant on both play counts and ratings.

  2. While I’m surprised at how well the WiFi connectivity works with the iPhone on the same local network, I’m definitely convinced that always on WAN connectivity is useful. I still get many instances where my watch is disconnected from the iPhone even in my own home. These are obviously not a big deal now but for future functionality where the watch is controlling multiple devices in the home, disconnecting because of interference or distance could be a lot more of a problem.

    There is no reason my watch shouldn’t be always connected to the iPhone or some other central network device even when I’m on a WAN instead of on my own LAN.

  3. This might sound trivial, but I hope in future, Apple manages to eliminate the (very brief) moment between raising the wrist and the clock face appearing. It’s only a momentary beat, but nonetheless, it’s there.

    And please, please, please – no FaceTime on the Apple Watch. Seriously – don’t do it Apple. Please don’t do it. It might be just me, but I can’t see the value in it.

    The one thing I would like to see, is some more development time given to the way that Force Touch interacts with the Music app.

    More than anything else, I use my iPhone as an iPod. It would be great to have Force Touch updated to deliver more information for each song I’m playing (eg. number of plays, playlists in which the song appears etc).

    And what about using Force Touch to rewind parts of songs, rather than the <> buttons which only move you to the beginning of the current track, or the start of the next track?

    Oh, and lastly, I would like my Watch to give me the ability to fly.

    Not really asking too much…

    1. I get tired of walking out of the house without my watch or phone. Maybe some notification that the two are separated. It could be that I’ve turned that off though…

    2. The right way for Apple to do FaceTime on an Apple Watch is with selfy avatars. The watch would translate the oddly angled camera views of your expressions to an animated face or a reconstruction of your own face at a normal angle.

      Its only a matter of time before we all have automated avatars that look like us. This would be a perfect first application.

  4. The more attention that Apple Watch gets for health consideration is becoming regularly more of a feature. This is a major feature for the watch where it really beats the competition and is drawing players from small independent players to the likes of IBM. It’s a big deal to watch.

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