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In its first year, the Apple Watch has already laid claim as top dog in the smartwatch space. Even after waiting until April to debut, the Apple Watch shipped more than 50 percent of all smartwatches in 2015, according to a recent survey from Juniper Research.

While much can be made about early accomplishments and heavy exposure of the Apple Watch via its first consumer release, user outcry immediately began pouring in — even as the first devices were being unboxed — about what features and capabilities the smartwatch didn’t include.

Alas, key missing features from version one of Apple Watch didn’t come as much of a surprise — there are limits to current technology. But Apple remains among the most profitable companies in the world for good reason; they know how to strategically spread out noteworthy capabilities between major product releases. In other words, they’ve perfected the art of getting customers to keep coming back for more.

The first iPhone to reach the world stage back in 2007 was armed with a meager 2MP camera incapable of shooting video, lacked GPS capability and ran on painfully slow EDGE or 2G wireless. It had no notification center, no Siri, no App store, and it only took Apple three years to add cut, copy and paste. Likewise with the release of the first iPad six years ago: sans built-in cameras, motion controls, GPS or movie mode.

Patience is a virtue that Apple fan boys and girls know very well.

Now we find ourselves on the brink of yet another jump from first generation to second. According to various reports — none of which come from Cupertino — Apple is expected to introduce the Watch 2 later this year, perhaps as early as March but more likely in September.

Whether it’s better sensors or more content-related features, there are a number of ways Apple could improve its smartwatch. Though to be clear, Apple hasn’t said a word about its next device or if it even exists. But here’s a look at a few things we think the company could improve on — through the perspective of journalists — with the second-coming of the Apple Watch.

Camera

We’ll start with the obvious. A camera represents a major hardware upgrade opportunity. According to various published reports, the Apple Watch 2 will feature a video camera allowing users to make and receive video FaceTime calls rather than just audio ones. Imagining a stand-alone camera for gathering photos and video becomes a bit more challenging. We’re used to manipulating cameras and mobile phones in our hands to shoot desired angles; smartwatches, strapped to our wrists, are much more restrictive.

Additional sensors

The Apple Watch has a heart rate sensor, but if it truly wants to be seen as a health/fitness device it needs more sensors. A blood glucose sensor is the most requested, but sensors like motion and barometer for tracking runs and step climbs would be a huge health boost.

Bringing the focus back to explicit desires from a journalistic perspective, breakthroughs in sensor data gathering to aid news reporting could provide compelling possibilities. Built-in sensor capabilities to analyze environmental data would better begin to close the gap for how some data journalists use their smartphones and other connected devices, and how they could instead leverage a smartwatch.

Better battery

Frustratingly short battery life is easily the most common complaint among Apple Watch owners. Less than a day’s worth of battery life is a major bummer, particularly when compared to traditional wristwatches where batteries last a few years or longer. Even closer rivals in the smartwatch space, such as the Pebble Time Steel, boast an impressive battery life of around 10 days. It’s almost a given that Apple engineers will address this long-standing concern in the next release.

Smart bands

Much of the early written speculation with smart band concepts include finding a way to use the undocumented diagnostic port of the watch to introduce new sensors through the watchband. However, beyond more robust capabilities to the health kit, I think there also could be interesting news notification possibilities with a smart band.

I’d love to see a connected watchband that could change colors depending on types of pre-selected news alerts: red for breaking news, blue for weather, green for financial market updates, for example. I’m also thinking about how text and other data might appear on the smart band: additional prime real estate to dynamically display pertinent news and information.

Easier to post to social media

The Apple Watch is a solid device for consuming information such as glance notifications, text messages, emails, sports scores, and weather and business updates. However, as an instrument for creating content, the device — as it stands currently — is woefully lacking. There’s no greater example of this than experiencing social media on the wrist-worn device. Popular social networking apps like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram can be perused via the Apple Watch but users must utilize wonky workarounds to post, such as voice-assistant Siri or third-party services like IFTTT. A significant upgrade in this area could be a game-changer for how users interact with the Watch.

Short video notifications

One of the more intriguing responses from my social media survey of industry colleagues was from Liz Murray, who shared her interest in receiving short video push notifications on her Apple Watch. Currently the popular functionality is largely limited to text-based alerts on the wrist.

Complex apps

“I hardly ever use third-party apps,” technology reporter Walt Mossberg declared in a recent article for The Verge. Mossberg went on to say, “I find most of them slower and clumsier than just pulling out my phone to use the more full-features, faster version of the app.” In late 2015, when Apple released a new version of the Watch operating system intended to speed up and enrich third-party apps, the number of Apple Watch apps ballooned from about 4,000 to more than 13,000. However, few among this growing number are more than halfway compelling.

Faster

While the Apple Watch does a lot of things well, it can sometimes be painfully slow, especially when loading third-party apps or content that requires an Internet connection. While loading for most apps takes a moment, a couple of seconds here or there can seem like an eternity when you’re holding your wrist up to your face.

Bigger screen

Most published reports speculating on new features for Apple Watch 2 suggest no major design changes. The Apple Watch 2 will apparently stick with its original design and form factor. As someone who’s used the larger Apple Watch face (42mm) since its launch, I would love to see an even larger display made available. A bigger watch face would mean more screen real estate for consuming media and text information — a welcome sight for poor eyes!

iPhone independence

For the second-gen Watch, Apple plans more functionality when it's separated from an iPhone, and has reportedly internally named the project "tether-less." As it stands, the Apple Watch can only support activity tracking, music playback and mobile payments without a paired iPhone; features such as text messaging, emailing and using third-party apps are possible only when the Apple Watch is paired with an iPhone. The release of watchOS 2 brought the ability for third-party apps to run natively on the Watch, but the apps still require an iPhone to send and receive data.

With the Apple Watch 2, Apple developers are reportedly looking to make it more capable when your iPhone isn't connected, simply by adding a new wireless chipset into the wearable. What difference will this make to the Apple Watch experience? While it probably won't be able to handle data-heavy requests such as software updates, other tasks could be handled without the assistance of an iPhone — another potential game-changer for many.

We expect the unveiling of the second-generation Apple Watch sometime in 2016. In the interim, we will count the days, obsessively glancing at our wrists for news, all the while compiling the most interesting predictions, best guesses and rumors about what the future holds.

Victor Hernandez  
   
Nonresidential fellow




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