Apple is planning to release a cellular version of its Apple Watch smartwatch later this year, according to a report Friday from Bloomberg.
That means the Apple Watch would no longer rely solely on the iPhone to download or stream data, and would be able to connect to an LTE network. You may be able to leave your iPhone at home and receive incoming calls or texts to your watch — a capability that many cellular-enabled Android smartwatches, such as the Samsung Gear S3 and LG Watch Sport, already offer.
Bloomberg also reports that the smartwatch will be equipped with an Intel-supplied chip and that the company is in talks with AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile about carrying the cellular version.
Last year’s model, the Apple Watch Series 2, introduced GPS, which decreased the watch’s reliance on an iPhone connection. With GPS tracking turned on, however, the device’s battery life is reduced from about 18 to five hours. A cellular connection would also impact battery life.
To compensate for battery drain due to data use, many smartwatchmakers, such as LG, have simply increased the size of the battery. The LG Watch Sport, introduced earlier this year, is designed to work with Android devices and has cellular LTE data, built-in GPS, NFC for mobile payments, and a heart rate sensor — all features that the upcoming Apple Watch will likely have.
The new Apple Watch may also ship with WatchOS 4, the latest version of the watch’s software, slated for release this fall. The update includes new watch faces, a redesigned workout app with better pool integration for swimmers, the ability to exchange information with gym equipment, and deeper AirPod integration.
Apple has historically announced the latest version of the iPhone and Apple Watch during its annual September keynote.
John Gruber, who runs the Daring Fireball blog and has been known to have early information on Apple products, said he had also heard the new cellular watch model would include an “all-new form factor.”
“It’s hard to overstate just how big a deal this could be,” Gruber said. “No mention in Businessweek’s report, though, of the all-new form factor that I’ve heard is coming for this year’s new watches.”