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Apple Watch Series 5: Release data rumors, feature speculation, more

Apple Watch Series 5. There's been little whispered about it all year. So little so, some people were wondering out loud if there'd even be a new Apple Watch this year. That Apple might stick with the Series 4, price drop it a little, and soak up more sales that way.

That's never really resonated with me, though. Unless Apple wants to permanently fix a lower price for the Apple Watch in people's expectations, introducing a new Series 5 and then price-dropping the still excellent Series 4 seems like a more Apple way to handle it. Especially since Apple doesn't really ever coast.

Sure, sometimes there are longer gaps between products than others. The iPad, for example, has averaged far closer to 18 months than 12. There have been huge gaps between Macs, but seldom the ones that really sell, or for any legit desire to coast.

Apple Watch in particular, ever since Series 2, has been updated every September, on the September, in absolute lockstep with the iPhone.

Which, makes the kind of sense that does. First, Apple Watch is still paired with iPhone for functionality, so pairing it for launch is convenient. Second, Apple Watch is super popular, especially for the holiday quarter that immediately follows the September launch.

It's almost like the new iPod nano. And, while the iPod nano didn't always have the biggest year-over-year updates, Apple pretty much always made sure there were new finishes and a new lineup on the shelves well before shopping started in earnest.

And that's where the only rumors to date come in.

Apple Watch Series 5: Ceramic and Titanium cases

Back in February, supply chain exfiltrator extraordinaire, Kuo Ming-Chi, dropped this nugget in one of his reports:

New ceramic casing design added.

Apple introduced a white ceramic case for the Series 2 back in 2016 and added a gray ceramic variant in 2017. In 2018, though, Apple hit pause on the material so all the attention would go to the then-new gold steel finish. And why blow all your finishes on a new design in the same year, right?

Kuo also reported, just a couple days ago, that it'll continue to have an OLED screen, presumably RGP stripe and not pentile like most phones, made by Japan Display.

RIP microLED fantasies, at least for another year.

Now, iHelpBR has discovered some assets in the latest Apple Watch firmware that also shows ceramic will be making a comeback, though only the material, not which colors.

It's not coming alone, though. Also discovered was titanium. Which while well established in the traditional watch world would be all-new to Apple Watch.

Again, though, no word on the color or colors. Straight up metallic or white like the Apple Card. I'm really, really hoping for the former.

Also unknown at this point is whether matching bands will be coming with them.

Last year, Apple released a new gold steel Milanese to accompany the gold steel case, but not a gold steel link bracelet. Back in the day, Apple didn't release a yellow or rose gold 18K link bracelet either. Not to anyone besides a very select few celebrities like Beyonce.

Maybe they're waiting. Or maybe Apple just doesn't like the go-to-market for gold bracelets?

Likewise, not with any of the ceramics, not in 2016, not in 2017, did Apple release a ceramic link bracelet to go with them, despite ceramic link bracelets totally being a thing in the watch world.

So, does that mean the odds of ceramic and titanium link bracelets this year are low and lower? What about a titanium Milanese? Having to use a steel one would be like having mismatched lugs. Ugh.

And if we stick with the theme of pop colors for popular Apple products, maybe we could see some new finishes for the aluminum line as well? Year's past have been constrained to the usual silver, space gray, gold, and briefly rose gold.

But now that the iPhone XR has shown off blue, yellow, coral, and product RED, I'd love to see something like that on the Watch.

There haven't been any rumors of that, at least not yet. But a man can dream.

Apple Watch Series 5 silicon

Even in the absence of leaks, just like it's impossible to imagine Apple not tweaking the finishes to goose holiday sales, it's really tough to imagine them not pushing the internals as well.

Since the original Apple Watched launched with its unique system-in-package, or SIP, Apple has been revving the performance each year, every year. Twice even in 2016 when they announced both the S2 chipset for the Series 2 and the S1P for the the entry level Series 1.

The S4 went dual core 64 bit. Would Johny Srouji's platform architecture team really let 2019 pass them by without an S5?

I'm not sure if the S4 was fabbed on the same 7 nanometer process used for the A12, but if it wasn't, and there is an S5, and it is, then that by itself would be proper update.

Apple could get more performance efficiency at the same size or the same at a smaller size.

In past years, we've seen Apple spend those types of increases or overheads on everything from speeding up app launches to adding LTE connectivity to making the watch thinner.

This year, if they're not thinning it out even more, or upping the cellular, maybe they could use that budget on my own personal — though hugely popular — holy grain:

An always-on display mode that lets the watch, you know, work as a watch even when you don't move it, tap it, or otherwise prompt it to light up.

Sleep tracking aside, which sounds like it might still be a year away following Apple's acquisition of Beddit in May of 2017, that's the lowest hanging piece of fruit left for Apple to pluck off the watch's missing feature tree.

At least if we leave the far-less-likely-for now fanfic of in-screen Touch ID, FaceTime and Face ID, or a round redesign off the table… for now.

Apple Watch Series 5: More...?

Google's Wear OS really isn't putting much if any competitive pressure on Apple at this point. Neither is Qualcomm's wearable silicon, which they're still not investing in, just sorta continually reheating old phone chips for. Samsung is iterating fast on their Gear watches, though. So much so that Unpacked 2019's segment looked a hell of a lot like Apple's 2018. So, Apple should by no means rest on their market share.

Of course, it's also possible that we'll get a few new watchOS 6 features to go with the any new hardware. Last year's Series 4 added fall protection, irregular heart rate warnings, and the ECG app.

If there are any new sensors or anything distinctive whatsoever, that's just the best way to highlight it. But we'll have to wait for Apple's annual September event — this year widely expected to be held on Tuesday, September 10th, and Jeff William taking the stage to know for sure.

So, in the meantime, do you think we'll be getting an Apple Watch Series 5 this year? And, if so, what features are on your simply must have list?

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Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

8 Comments
  • They need to offer a band-less, steel, non cellular option. I already have a really good band and don't want waste money on their cheesy basic band.
  • Regardless of what they charge for the bands separately, not including them likely wouldn't change the retail price significantly.
  • Anything would be helpful and cut down on waste; both unwanted product and packaging.
  • I wonder if Apple is angling to make the LTE watch independent of an iPhone to the point you no longer need one to make calls? Seeing as they show no sign of plans to enable the Phone.app on the LTE iPads, a iPad + Watchphone combo would do me almost as nice.
  • Interesting. An article about the Watch with a Fossil smartwatch commercial embedded in it. Maybe the ads change every so often but I had to chuckle a bit when I read the article while watching the Fossil ad.
  • A major feature would be blood pressure. Apple doesn’t need new sensors for that. It’s known that the two sensors Apple has now, with the appropriate software, can do blood pressure. So for me, that would be the major feature upgrade. My watch likely saved my life last year, so I’m looking forward to this upgrade. New colors and case materials would be nice, but minor. I’ve bought the series 2, 3 and 4. I’m still using the black SS bracelet I bought for the 2. Last year I might have bought the new gold SS, but without a gold bracelet, it didn’t make sense for me, so I bought another black SS model. I suppose that better battery life would be the number two feature of importance to me. A true two days would be nice. Three would be great. Now, sometimes I get two days, and sometimes not. I don’t care about an always on screen. That’s just a waste of power right now. Maybe when they get it to a week, it might be worthwhile.
  • Apple doesnt coast? That one really had me laughing. The "S" model is the epitome of coasting.
  • Rene, Can you answer this question: Can an Apple LTE watch contact 9-1-1 without an iPhone nearby or an ancillary data plan, as can be done with a cellphone that never had a data plan? In fact does a cellphone need a SIM or other condition to contact 9-1-1 or other EMS number? Several people have opined that it's possible, but I've never seen a definitive answer from a knowledgable person or insider. Many people refer to the FCC law, an say it should work, but they always have no direct knowledge.