The next generation of the Apple Watch is expected to be released in September as usual. For the first time since the launch, Apple could completely change the design. Leakers expect a much more angular case, which will also be available in several colors - more or less an iMac for the wrist. Apple fans will (perhaps) find out how comfortable the edges feel when worn in the fall. Above all, they hope that Apple will work on the biggest weakness of its smartwatch, the battery life. Warentest winner Apple Watch Series 6 doesn't last more than a day, even after years of development. This is all the more annoying for anyone who wants to analyze their sleep with the watch on their wrist. Because it has to be plugged in at night. The noticeably smaller and, for the first time, double-sided S7 chip of the Watch Series 7 and the new shape could finally bring more space for the battery and thus longer runtimes. There is also talk of a more robust outdoor version, the "Explorer Edition", which is more or less a smartwatch SUV.
While Android can keep up with Apple's iPhone software iOS in most areas, Google's smartwatch operating system Wear OS looks bleak. The software has not been fundamentally renewed since Wear OS 2 was released at the beginning of 2017. Accordingly, functions and operation of the watches from Huawei, Oppo or Fossil are outdated. No wonder, then, that according to chip supplier Qualcomm, a total of only around 40 million Android smartwatches have been sold since 2016. But that is set to change. And fast. On August 11, Samsung will unveil its Galaxy Watch 4 - the first smartwatch to run the all-new Wear OS 3. For this, the Koreans have even said goodbye to their own operating system Tizen. Google promises more apps, more speed, and more ways for manufacturers to customize the interface. Of the Android watches sold so far, however, only the very few will be upgraded to Wear OS 3. Those who want the Google upgrade usually need a new watch.
Both the Apple Watch 6 and the Galaxy Watch 3 now provide a medically approved ECG of their users, which sounds an alarm in case of abnormal values. Since an update in the spring of 2021, the Samsung watch also offers a blood pressure measurement - but it still works very awkwardly. Because the watch must be calibrated with a conventional blood pressure cuff. Most anticipated new health feature of smartwatches is blood sugar measurement without a prick through the skin. Samsung could bring it as early as this year as a big attraction of the Galaxy Watch 4. Apple, as usual, is probably more likely to wait until the blood glucose check is truly reliable and convenient in 2022 or 2023. It involves a miniature optical spectrometer on the bottom of the watch analyzing biomarkers in the blood that can be used to determine sugar levels. A medically reliable measurement should only take around 20 seconds. The market and the demand are huge: in the USA alone, about one in ten people is diabetic and could thus save themselves the annoying prick. Swiss researchers are already working on using the green light emitted by smartwatches to measure the pulse to stimulate the body's insulin production. The procedure, which first requires the injection of genetically modified cells, could make insulin injections superfluous in a few years.
Most observers agree that the pandemic will continue to accompany us despite all the progress in vaccination. In order to enable as normal a daily life as possible despite this, smartwatches are becoming an important helper. In the future, they will be able to warn users of a possible Corona infection at an early stage. In a US study, the sensors of the watches detected indications of a possible infection as early as seven days before the onset of initial symptoms such as cough, fever or loss of taste. This works because the sensors detect even the most minimal deviations in heart rhythm, which are typical of Corona, at an early stage. Those who receive a warning from their watch can get tested early - and are less likely to infect others if they become infected. Professor Rob Hirten of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York explains the "Apple smear" this way: "We already knew that markers of heart rate variability change when inflammation develops in the body. And Covid is an incredibly inflammatory event. It allows us to predict that people are infected before they know it." Related apps are already in the works.
The Watch Series 7 (probably again from around 430 euros) runs the new operating system watchOS 8 - perhaps Apple should work on its confusing numbering. The update will not only work on the new Watch model from fall 2021, but will also come as a free update for the predecessors Watch Series 3, 4, 5 and 6 as well as for the somewhat lower budget model SE (from 300 euros). Restriction: Due to the too weak processor, not all novelties also land on the Watch Series 3. Apple promises, among other things, new photo functions for the watch faces, more options for smart home control, digital house and car keys, a completely revised music app and even more health functions such as the analysis of sleep breathing. New fitness focuses include Pilates and Tai Chi. If you're curious and want to try out watchOS 8 right now, you can register at Apple and download the beta software.
The current smartwatches with their countless sensors are absolutely high-tech - at least inside the watch case. The wristbands, on the other hand, are "only" chic, provide variety and, above all, bring Apple a lot of money in the till. But they have nothing to do with technology. That should change. A prototype of the Apple Watch Series 3 from 2017, which has only now surfaced, shows where the journey could go. It has multiple contacts on the rail for the wristbands, the likes of which have not been seen before. These contacts are likely to support smart wristbands. This would allow Apple or even other manufacturers to offload sensors from the watch to the wristband. There would be more space to measure blood pressure or insulin levels on the wrist - or to extend battery life with a thin, flexible battery. Whether and when such a novelty will come is still unclear. But one thing is certain: the time for even smarter smartwatch functions is far from over.