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Apple might be working on a rugged Apple Watch – here’s what to know

If Apple wants to capture more of the smartwatch market, it needs a more durable option.

rugged apple watch
Image: KnowTechie

Apple Watch is the most successful product by the California-based tech giant except for of course the iPhone. Last year, Apple maintained its dominance in the global smartwatch market accounting for around 40% of sales in the last quarter.

And yet, the company is unable to tap into a few micro niches mainly because it is fixated on maximizing benefits from a tried-and-tested model. One of them is the rugged smartwatch niche.

In the absence of big competitors like Apple and Samsung, Garmin and similar companies have taken a strong foothold in adventure and sports-focused smartwatches. Their products are marked by long battery life, practical features, and a ruggedized exterior. And as you can guess these attributes allow them to outdo other smartwatches when it comes to tough environment conditions and extreme sports. Yes, even the Apple Watch.

Although fans are still using Apple Watch for regular sports tracking, it is not the first choice for many when Garmin, Suunto, and Casio are offering better alternatives. With the global pandemic driving more and more people to look at outdoor excursions, Apple is at a disadvantage. It seems that the company has taken notice of the situation as in March this year there was a major leak suggesting Apple is mulling over a ruggedized design.

We don’t know with certainty what the engineers at Apple Park are up to, but the least we could expect is some solid upgrades to make a strong case against the competitors.

The rugged Apple Watch would have to break with tradition

apple watch time to walk
Image: KnowTechie

Apple’s iconic metallic design is an inspiration for many and has made billions of dollars in profit for the company. But like all other smartwatches made for urban lifestyle and regular sports tracking, it is susceptible to damage. Until now the company has focused more on refining the looks at the expense of improving overall strength.

Even the toughest Apple Watch at the moment with Sapphire glass and titanium casing is no match to the beasts like Garmin Fenix 6X, Suunto Spartan, and Casio Pro Trek Smart in durability. There is massive room for improvement.

The same Bloomberg story that leaked the news of a rugged Apple Watch in the making has claimed that the company would go for a rubberized exterior instead of metal. It might ditch the looks in favor of a durable design by adding a thick bezel around the screen.

For Apple, it would truly be a great challenge to add bulk and weight to the new design without making it ugly. Apart from an improved impact resistance, the new watch would also have to level up the water resistance to 10 ATM.

The Apple Watch can’t make the cut without robust navigation

apple watch se options
Image: KnowTechie

Dubbed as ‘The Explorer Edition’ inside Apple, the new watch as the name suggests is targeted at outdoor adventurers. And for any premium outdoor smartwatch, solid navigation is a must-have feature. Both Casio and Garmin have an upper hand here as they cover a wide variety of navigation systems (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and BeiDou). And as they have been building GPS devices for decades, they offer better accuracy.   

Apple has both GPS and GLONASS (the Russian alternative to GPS) integrated inside its latest Apple Watch Series 6, but in terms of accuracy and locking on to signals it is far behind the competitors.

Improving battery performance would be Apple’s Top priority

apple watch on bed
Image: Unsplash

A long battery life has always been on the company’s wish list. The latest Apple Watch Series 6 offers one and a half days of performance between charges if you use it on basic mode. On mixed usage, it would last you 18 hours and if you are constantly using battery-killer features like GPS or Cellular connectivity, that time is further reduced to almost three hours.

To put things in perspective, Garmin Enduro has enough battery juice for a whole year, and its Fenix Series watches last for weeks with standard usage, and almost 12 hours with GPS enabled. The company also offers a solar edition of its flagship watches. The watches by Casio and Suunto offer similar features.

If the rugged Apple Watch is to be adopted by outdoorsy people, it would have to offer similar results if not surpass them. That means Apple might have to reinvent its wearable battery technology or compromise many of its highlight features like crisp Retina Display and cellular connectivity.

Wrapping it up

Apple has a history of entering a challenging market and claiming the lion’s share for itself. Having the right talent pool and more-than-enough resources at its disposal, the company is highly likely to come up with some serious upgrades. The timing could not be more perfect as post-COVID years are expected to witness an upward trend in traveling and tourism.

A rugged Apple Watch would be a huge market success even if it is as good as the current favorites.

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