A recent report was met with howls of anguish after it revealed that the Apple Watch 2 would not feature cellular networking.
According to Bloomberg, Apple may not build cellular networking into the upcoming wearable. While there are some questions on the veracity of the story, there is an argument that the Apple Watch 2 would not benefit from cellular connectivity anyway.
Apple Watch 2 unlikely to get cellular connectivity, and that’s ok
While it may seem like a great idea to have your Apple Watch connected even away from your iPhone, there are plenty of reasons why the feature is, at least for now, unnecessary.
The first is a practical concern. The fact is that cellular radio takes up space and power, which are two things that the Apple Watch is already short of.
As it stands the Apple Watch is an amazing feat of engineering, cramming in a huge number of features into a tiny package that you don’t mind wearing on your wrist. There isn’t the tiniest amount of space wasted in the current Apple Watch, but the company has form for pushing to get its technology to be thinner and lighter.
Power consumption a concern
Even though that thinner and lighter is a huge priority for Apple, it must still be argued that the addition of cellular radio would mean making sacrifices elsewhere. The battery is the largest thing in the Apple Watch, but you need it to power the components and potentially a newly added cellular radio.
Apple has revealed that watchOS 1 managed power very conservatively in order to boost battery life. The company says that watchOS 3 will sacrifice some power management in order to bring better performance. However it’s worth noting how much power a cellular radio uses. You need only consider how much longer your iPhone lasts on Airplane mode to get an idea.
There is a chance that Apple could somehow only activate cellular radio when you aren’t tethered to your iPhone or any WiFi networks. However the thought of operating with an Apple Watch by itself is not very attractive as things stand.
Practical concerns for use of standalone Apple Watch
The very design of the device means that most people would still want to have their iPhone handy. Reading short text messages might be OK, but trying to read long work emails is a chore because of the small screen size.
If you really wanted to you could scroll endlessly to read the message, but replying is also quite trying. Dictation may work OK, but it’s difficult to edit. Likewise the option of scribbling messages one letter at a time on the screen isn’t very practical.
Displays and input methods will have to come along leaps and bounds before the Apple Watch can operate as your only computer. The introduction of cellular networking will make no difference in that regard.
Tweaks and improvements necessary in multiple areas
While it seems likely that the Apple Watch will get cellular connectivity at some point in the future, it looks unlikely to be included on the Apple Watch 2. There are plenty of other things that Apple needs to worry about rather than adding cellular connectivity.
There are plenty of other rumors surrounding the Apple Watch, and the most consistent hardware rumor is the addition of GPS. This could be likely given the many fitness applications of the wearable, and GPS would let you go running without your phone while still plotting your route.
One potential issue is that the majority of Apple’s GPS-enabled devices use Assisted GPS, which uses cell tower information to assist with location tracking. GPS sometimes takes half a minute to find your location, which is why you see the big dot when you open Maps. It’s also worth noting that GPS uses a lot of power as well, so whether this would be a wise move remains to be seen.
While consumers may be hungry for more features, it looks like Apple is also aiming to provide a better user experience, better performance, longer battery life and maybe a thinner design from the Apple Watch 2. Another possible improvement could be better waterproofing.
It seems likely that the second generation Apple Watch will be about making improvements to the first, rather than making any massive changes to its features. Both the iPad 2 and iPhone 3S provide a clue as to how Apple works.
Why add cellular networking when there are improvements to be made across the board? It seems like a distraction at this stage.