Apple Watch X will upset a lot of people, but change is inevitable (2023)

Apple Watch X will upset a lot of people, but change is inevitable (1)

Every 5 to 10 years, Apple makes a decision it knows will upset a lot of people, and generates a lot of negative PR – but the company also knows that the fuss generally dies down, and everyone then forgets all about it. It looks like the Apple Watch X is set to be the next example.

Mark Gurman reported over the weekend that while this year’s Apple Watch upgrade will be the usual modest annual bump, we can expect a major redesign in 2024 or 2025 – with the name suggesting as big an update as from the iPhone 7 to iPhone X …

Apple’s history of upsetting people

Probably the oldest example was selling people an exceedingly expensive LISA computer in 1983, only to quickly replace it with the much more affordable and compact Macintosh a year later. The LISA was effectively obsoleted, and literally buried.

Apple’s switch from the iPhone’s 30-pin connector to the then-new Lightning port was incredibly controversial at the time. Many people pointed out that they had invested heavily in the 30-pin connector, with devices ranging from charging docks to expensive speaker systems, and those devices were going to be rendered useless by the shiny new iPhone 5.

There was similar outrage when Apple decided to remove the headphone jack from the iPhone, as of the iPhone 7. Some were upset at the fact that wireless audio couldn’t match the quality of a wired connection, but the issue for more people was that Apple had effectively rendered their expensive wired headphones obsolete for mobile use.

Next up was Apple going all-in on USB-C for the MacBook Pro – though the company was eventually forced to backtrack on that one, later reintroducing some older ports, as well as a new version of MagSafe.

This year, of course, the Lightning port will be replaced by a USB-C port in the iPhone 15 lineup, with people already grumbling about the expense of having to replace cables and charging docks.

And now it looks like the next example will be the loss of band compatibility with the upcoming launch of an Apple Watch X …

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The Apple Watch X

Gurman’s report over the weekend suggested that we can expect a major redesign of the Apple Watch in either 2024 or 2025, with the new model referred to as the Apple Watch X.

Apple is planning a “Watch X” model to mark the device’s 10-year anniversary, and it promises to be the biggest overhaul yet.

Gurman doesn’t have many details, but did note that it is likely to be significantly thinner than current models. However, the X model branding was last used by Apple when it replaced the iPhone 7 line-up with the iPhone X – which represented a dramatic redesign.

So far, so good – but then there’s the bit likely to upset a lot of people:

Apple designers are working on a thinner watch case and have explored changing the way bands are attached to the device […] the company has explored a new magnetic band attachment system.

Gurman does hedge his bets, saying it’s not certain that this will be part of the redesign, and it does seem to fit.

Starting with the original Apple Watch, bands have slid into the sides of the chassis and attached with a locking mechanism. Keeping that design the same let the bands stay compatible with old and new models, but it has downsides. People involved in the development of new Apple Watches say the system takes up a considerable amount of space that could be better filled with a bigger battery or other components.

Or – more likely, for Apple – significantly reduced the depth of the watch.

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The loss of band compatibility would be a big deal

When Apple first launched the Apple Watch, it pitched it as a fashion product as much as a tech one. The company hired a number of big names from the fashion business prior to launch, and invited the fashion press to the event itself.

The solid gold Edition model was, of course, a big flop, and was rapidly abandoned. But there’s no doubt that Apple did succeed in creating a fashion product, and the wide range of Apple Watch bands played a key role.

Swapping out bands is an easy way to change up the look of the Watch, and some have gone as far as having a whole collection of bands they use to coordinate with different outfits.

And bands aren’t cheap! The Hermès range runs as high as $539 each, the Space Black Link Bracelet comes in at $449, and there’s a wide range of bands coming in at $99+. Fashion-forward types could easily have four figures invested in even a modest number of bands, and there will be those whose outlay is significantly higher.

But even for more everyday Apple Watch owners, it’s not unusual to have three or four bands totaling $400-$500.

Having to discard those in order to upgrade to a new model is going to be rather painful.

But it’s also inevitable

The Apple Watch hasn’t really matched the pace of development of some product categories. We’ve seen some modest design improvements, and some worthwhile but still unspectacular new features, but most people hang onto their Watches for quite some years.

If Apple wants to persuade a lot of Watch owners to upgrade, as well as make switching more appealing to owners of competing smartwatch brands, it needs to come up with something compelling.

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My colleague Zac Hall argued that the then-rumored Apple Watch Ultra would effectively do this job, which proved true for some but not all.

It’s hard to imagine anything quite as revolutionary as the change from the iPhone 8 to the iPhone X – but a substantially slimmer device would probably be key. Given that battery-life is currently adequate rather than generous, the only realistic way to make a notably slimmer Apple Watch is to claim the space from elsewhere.

Things are very tightly packed inside, so you only have to look at an Apple Watch side on to see that the slots for the band lugs is the most obvious opportunity to recover space.

Apple Watch X will upset a lot of people, but change is inevitable (2)

Extend the battery out into that space, and you can make it a lot slimmer without losing capacity.

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I'd actually to know how many people buy real Apple Watch band vs 3rd party ones. The only Apple I have is the one that came with it. The rest are from Amazon that are significantly cheaper and work great. I think the most expensive one I have cost $15.

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So Apple will do what it (almost) always does in these situations: make the change anyway, ride out the storm, and wait for people to forget that things were any other way.

Would you upgrade anyway?

As for me personally, I still adore my ceramic Series 5, and nothing since has tempted me to swap it out for a newer model. A notably slimmer model would be tempting for sure; a notably slimmer ceramic model irresistible.

While I have in the past swapped out bands regularly, to change up the look, the white Solo Loop (a color Apple no longer sells!) has been the only one I’ve ever worn with this watch, because in my eyes the all-white look is unbeatable.

How about you? Could a slimmer Apple Watch X persuade you to upgrade, even if it meant losing compatibility with all your existing bands? Please take our poll, and share your thoughts in the comments.

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

Apple Watch X will upset a lot of people, but change is inevitable (3)

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Why some people don't like Apple Watch? ›

You might not like the Apple Watch's square shape. It's essentially a big screen sitting on your wrist that may look and feel awkward. Sometimes, it could become a bit annoying while typing on a laptop, and you'll have to take it off for a comfortable typing experience.

How an Apple Watch will change your life? ›

It's the ultimate device for a healthy life. Apple Watch can do what your other devices can't because it's on your wrist. When you wear it, you get a fitness partner that measures all the ways you move, meaningful health insights, and a connection to the people and things you care about most.

What is Apple Watch X? ›

Dubbed "Watch X," it will be the 10th edition of the Apple Watch that was originally announced in 2014 and released in 2015. To commemorate the occasion, Apple is planning the most significant redesign of the Watch yet apart from the recently launched Ultra, which is more of a spinoff than a direct follow-up.

What's the point of buying an Apple Watch? ›

Apple Watch with cellular keeps you connected to everything you care about, even when you don't have your iPhone. And a host of safety features helps give you peace of mind whether you're on the road, trail, or course.

What is a negative about an Apple Watch? ›

One of the main inconveniences of owning an Apple Watch is its battery life. The watch needs to be charged daily, which can be a hassle for those who are on the go or have busy schedules. This can be especially problematic when traveling, as it can be difficult to find an available outlet to charge the watch.

What is the Apple Watch controversy? ›

Apple is facing a lawsuit in the US over allegations that the blood oxygen sensor in its Apple Watch is racially biased against people with darker skin.

Which is better Apple Watch or regular watch? ›

My Apple Watch Experience

Here's what I learned from switching to the Apple watch. First, it collects some interesting data. The Health data seemed more interesting and more accurate (walking/running for example). That was an addition to any mechanical watch functionality that you would see, of course.

Should I use Apple Watch without iPhone? ›

Third-party apps may have different features accessible depending on the device being used, and some may not work at all without a smartphone nearby. In summary, the Apple Watch's features are best accessed when connected to an iPhone. However, the cellular models of the Apple Watch can function independently.

What is the use of Apple Watch without iPhone? ›

Even if you have no iPhone, Wi-Fi, or cellular connection, you can still use the following Apple Watch features: Check heart rate (all models) Take an ECG (Apple Watch Series 4 or later) Measure your blood oxygen (Apple Watch Series 6 or later)

How long do Apple watches last? ›

While the device might keep working and can still be paired to an iPhone after Apple ends support, a lack of updates makes it a security risk. That means the end of life should really be thought of as three to five years, even if the Apple Watch is in perfect condition.

Are Apple watches really worth it? ›

Whether you're a serious athlete or a person just casually interested in monitoring your activity level, the Apple Watch is great for fitness tracking. It also helps with routine tasks like getting directions, answering texts, email, and phone calls, and even paying for your morning coffee.

Why do some people not like watches? ›

There are a couple of reasons: Some people don't like the feeling of something attached to their wrist. Some people don't think its necessary because everyone already has a mobile phone which can already tell time, which is one of the most accurate time telling device. Some people think it's out of fashion or outdated.

Why I stopped using an Apple Watch? ›

I'd frequently become overwhelmed with all of the app icons on my Apple Watch. There were apps for iMessage, Apple Music, some of my banking apps, ESPN, Apple News, etc. It was too much! But being on a watch with very limited app support has made me realize just how useful smartwatch apps can be.

Why are Apple watches so hard to use? ›

The Apple Watch, by contrast, has a whole bunch of fiddly little details to master, from interacting with the crown to swiping the screen to managing the setup of the apps on the device. This is not all that easy to do, mainly because the screen is so small.

Is Fitbit or Apple Watch better? ›

While both brands offer outstanding, high-quality wearables, Fitbit has more budget-friendly options, superior battery life, and better health and fitness tracking than the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch edges out the Fitbit in terms of accuracy, convenience, and extra features, but it may be too pricey for some users.


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