The biggest upgrade in Apple Watch history is coming

On September 9, 2014, Cook released the first important new product without Jobs’ participation, – Apple Watch, at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California.

For Apple and Cook, the Apple Watch is no less significant than the iPhone 6 released at the same time. The conference is full of determination to open a new chapter in the post-Jobs era.

It was also at the Flint Center in 1984 that the 29-year-old Jobs presented the Macintosh computer to the world for the first time. Apple chose this place to debut the Apple Watch as the starting point for the next great journey.

Apple Watch is the first “One More Thing” product of the Cook era. This classic line created by Steve Jobs when he released the first generation iPhone is only used for revolutionary products in Apple’s eyes.

After the Apple Watch, One More Thing has only appeared twice, once with the iPhone X and once with this year’s Vision Pro.

When Cook introduced the Apple Watch at the press conference, he once again used the description of a “revolutionary product.” Jobs’ opening remarks echoed the 2007 press conference that went down in history:

Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along.

The Apple Watch is certainly not the next iPhone, but it has followed a similar trajectory. From being questioned as an electronic toy, it has become the smart watch with the largest market share, even defeating the entire Swiss watch industry.

Apple Watch will celebrate its tenth anniversary next year. This product will no longer be updated like the “toothpaste squeeze” of the past few years. Instead, it will be the Apple Watch that has changed the most in ten years, with a completely new look from design, materials to functions.

This 10th anniversary milestone product is likely to continue the tradition of the iPhone and be named Apple Watch X.

Apple Watch’s “X” moments

Bloomberg reporter Mark Guman broke the news that Apple is preparing to launch an Apple Watch X to celebrate the tenth anniversary of this product, but it is not yet certain whether it will be released in 2024 or 2025.

▲ Picture from: MacRumors

Apple designers are developing a thinner and lighter body for Apple Watch X and are exploring a new way to wear the watch strap.

According to insiders involved in the development of Apple Watch Space.

Therefore, Apple Watch X may use a new magnetic strap connection system, but not many details have been disclosed yet.

You may be familiar with Apple’s magnetic structure, but I still miss the “click” sound of the old MacBook’s magnetic charging port. In fact, in addition to MagSafe, Apple has also accumulated many patents in magnetic connection, including technology applied to smart watches.

As early as 2015, Apple applied for a patent called “Magnetic Watchband.” This is a watchband with a magnetic closing function. It is somewhat similar to the Milanese watchband, but it can be curled to form a stand or unfolded. As a protective cover.

▲Milanese watch strap.

Later, Apple also developed different magnetic connection structures based on this patent, including methods of integrating magnets into various materials, and methods of connecting magnets. Some devices use magnets to bite together to connect two parts. Some have two magnets placed side by side, such as magnetically connecting the Magic Trackpad to the side of the Magic Keyboard.

Apple has another patented design that is even bolder. This watch adopts a modular design and is assembled through a latch and magnetic structure. The watch body can be removed directly without taking off the strap.

No matter how the magnetic strap of Apple Watch The product has attracted many enthusiasts.

As for the design to make the Apple Watch body thinner and lighter, a patent shows that Apple has already been developing a new ultra-thin touch technology that can reduce the structural layers of the display and remove redundant circuits, thereby making the module thinner and lighter.

This display structure technology can also be used in iPhone, iPad and other products. Maybe similar technology has been quietly used on the iPhone 12, which has a stronger body but is thinner than the previous generation.

Of course, there is often a long way between technology company patent registration and product application, and some patents may just be defensive patent reserves. But these patents also reflect Apple’s exploration direction to a certain extent, and the consideration of Apple Watch design updates is no longer an overnight thing.

The big update of Apple Watch There are so many changes.

This level of update is not surprising. The release of Apple Watch in the past few years has begun to squeeze out toothpaste. Last year, Series 8’s body temperature sensing function, Series 7’s larger screen, and Series 6’s main feature of blood oxygen monitoring are relatively large. Updated, but not new to the market at the time.

Mark Guman revealed that Apple executives are considering adjusting the update cycle of Apple Watch. For example, like the iPad, it has been updated every year instead of every 18 months, but this may also have a certain impact on attracting new users.

Big updates announced in advance

Since Apple Watch The previously rumored non-invasive blood glucose monitoring and microLED display are reported to appear on this generation of products.

Breakthrough in non-invasive blood glucose measurement

At the beginning of the year, Bloomberg revealed that Apple had made breakthrough progress in blood sugar monitoring. Apple had achieved non-invasive blood sugar monitoring and had also achieved preliminary miniaturization of the device, which means it may be stuffed into the Apple Watch.

Apple has developed a silicon photonic chip, manufactured by TSMC, that collects the optical absorption spectrum returned by laser irradiation on the skin to determine the glucose concentration in the body.

However, the current second-generation prototype is about the same size as an iPhone, but it still needs to be strapped to the arm. It is not quite like an Apple Watch, but it has been reduced in size compared to the first-generation desktop device.

Apple is still trying to further shrink it and obtain certification from medical institutions, and eventually integrate it into the Apple Watch.

Responsible for the development of non-invasive blood sugar technology is a mysterious team called XDG (Apple’s Exploratory Design Group), also called the “moon landing team” by Mark Gurman. It has gathered a group of Apple’s top engineers to explore and conquer new technologies.

The XDG team focuses on batteries, next-generation display technology, wireless charging, chips, artificial intelligence, etc. Products and technologies such as the T chip in Mac, MagSafe in iPhone, Apple Watch, and head-mounted displays are actually all contributed by the XDG team.

Apple’s non-invasive blood sugar project layout has been going on for many years, and was originally decided upon by Steve Jobs during his illness in 2010. Jobs led the acquisition of a start-up company that proposed the concept of non-invasive blood glucose monitoring and cooperated with Avolonte Health. This company was later integrated into the XDG team.

The Apple Watch, which supports non-invasive blood glucose monitoring, is likely to give a big boost to sales. According to IDF (International Diabetes Federation) statistics, the number of adult diabetic patients worldwide has reached 537 million in 2021, and this number continues to increase. This does not include more people who need to continuously monitor blood sugar in the pre-diabetes stage.

Currently, blood monitoring and subcutaneous minimally invasive blood glucose monitoring equipment are much more expensive than an Apple Watch, and the single-use cost is not low. Although the accuracy of non-invasive blood glucose monitoring is not as good as medical-grade equipment, the more convenient and cheaper experience is still very attractive to users.

a better screen

It has long been an open secret that Apple plans to use microLED to replace existing screens.

As early as 2018, there was news that Apple had launched a microLED screen adapted to the size of the Apple Watch, and it performed better in terms of brightness, color, and power saving than Samsung, which is also developing a microLED.

What’s so great about micro LEDs?

Unlike a computer’s LCD screen, which requires a backlight, it can be imagined as a very small (micron-level) light bulb. These small light bulbs can emit light independently without the need for additional light sources. The screen is thinner, has higher contrast and more colorful colors. Vibrant and faster response time.

Therefore, microLED not only displays well under outdoor sunlight, but also does not cause blurring or afterimages when watching fast-moving images in game movies.

And when there are black areas on the screen, the pixels can be turned off to give a completely black effect. Some industry insiders claim that microLED will make content “look like it’s painted on glass.”

Compared with OLED screens, microLEDs use inorganic materials, which are not restricted by the lifespan of organic molecules like OLEDs. They have a longer lifespan and are less prone to “screen burn-in” problems.

However, the shortcomings of microLED are also significant. The greater production difficulty and extremely low yield, as well as the consequent high price, are huge challenges for mass production. Referring to the 110-inch microLED TV launched by Samsung last year, priced at 1.05 million yuan, the cost of microLED can be seen.

Although Apple acquired LuxVue, a start-up company that produces microLED, in 2014 and has successively invested billions of dollars in research and development, including investing in and building factories in Taiwan. MicroLED is also one of Apple’s highest priority internal projects, but this technology It has not been applied to any products yet.

Considering the process difficulty and cost of microLED, as well as Apple’s consistent cautious attitude towards the application of new technologies, the Apple Watch with a smaller screen will be Apple’s first product equipped with microLED, and will be used first in high-end flagships, such as the Ultra series.

But the Apple Watch may not be the first smart watch equipped with microLED. In April this year, AU Optronics announced the successful mass production of the world’s first 1.39-inch microLED watch display, which will be the first to be supplied to luxury watch manufacturer TAG Heuer.

Last week, Mark Guman also revealed that Apple plans to gradually introduce microLED technology into other products, including iPhone, Vision Pro and the rumored Apple Car, which will further reduce Apple’s dependence on Samsung OLED screens.

It can be seen that the significance of Apple Watch In the application of iPhone and other products, it is also an indispensable evaluation reference.

In ten years, Apple Watch has gone from “toy” to key

When you read the Apple Watch X mentioned above and then look back at the original Apple Watch, you will find that they are two products with completely different positioning.

Jony Ive, who led the design of Apple Watch, initially hoped to make it a fashionable luxury product. Before its official release, he sent it to many celebrities in the fashion industry to try it out. He also launched an 18K gold Apple Watch Edition priced at over 100,000 yuan, all emphasizing Apple’s The “Watch” attribute of Watch is even more comparable to high-end luxury goods in terms of marketing.

▲ From left to right: Colette creative director Sarah Andelman, fashion designer “Lafayette” Karl Lagerfeld, “Vogue” editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, Jony Ive, industrial designer Marc Newson. Picture from: businessinsider

Including cooperating with Hermès to create joint models, and setting up counters in high-end department stores such as Galeries Lafayette in Paris, France, Selfridges in London, and Isetan in Tokyo, Japan. These are all fashion experiments carried out by Apple through Apple Watch.

▲Picture from: SmartWatch

However, this strategy did not allow Apple Watch to open up the mass market, and was even ridiculed by the fashion and watch industries. Swatch CEO Nick Hayek said after the launch of Apple Watch:

The Apple Watch is actually just a fun toy, not a revolutionary product at all.

Jean-Claude Biver, the then head of watch business at Louis Vuitton (LVMH), also expressed a similar view:

The best Swiss watches are unique and can be passed down from generation to generation and will not become worthless after five years; but the Apple Watch is different. It is destined to become obsolete one day.

The first-generation Apple Watch received mixed reviews in the technology circle. Nilay Patel, editor-in-chief of technology media The Verge, believes that the Apple Watch far exceeded his expectations, but it has not yet been able to give a final definition of smart watches.

In Ai Faner’s article about her experience with the first-generation Apple Watch at that time, users’ criticisms and doubts also accounted for the majority.

Since then, the core selling point of Apple Watch has shifted from fashion to health and sports. Apple Watch Series 4 is a sign of the completion of this positioning change. This product introduces health functions such as ECG heart rate monitoring. Apple called it the “ultimate guardian of health” at the press conference.

It was also in this year that the last Apple Watch store in Isetan, Tokyo, Japan closed, symbolizing the end of the Apple Watch fashion luxury accessories route.

This is also a turning point for Apple Watch sales. According to data released by market research agency Watch Faces, Apple Watch’s annual sales in 2022 will reach 53.9 million units, making it already Apple’s fourth best-selling product, second only to iPhone, iPad and AirPods.

Not long ago, Kevin Lynch, Apple’s vice president of technology, mentioned in an exclusive interview with iFan’er that when developing Apple Watch, the team first determined the consensus on this product: social interaction, activities, health, and the ability to control the real world . It is internally known as the “Key to the World” .

Behind this bunch of keys is Apple’s real main line—making computer-computer interaction more natural .

From the Digital Touch on the first generation Apple Watch to the new interactive logic of smart stacking in the latest watchOS 10, Apple Watch’s exploration of interaction methods has always been consistent with its once-swaying positioning, constantly moving towards operating in high-frequency scenarios. Evolution in a simpler direction

Apple has always been looking for the greatest common denominator between functionalism and aesthetic design. I really like Jony Ive’s definition of Apple Watch in his interview with “Hodinkee”. It also applies to other Apple products.

(Apple Watch) is not meant to solve any specific problem. It is an optimization and an opportunity. You can choose to comment on its existing functions. At the same time, you can also imagine what possibilities it can bring to you by carrying such a powerful technology with you at all times.

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