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Next-generation Apple Watch rumored to boast more sensors, fitness capabilities

The Apple Watch won't hit stores until next year, but a report on Thursday is already saying the next iteration will come packed with more sensors and fitness-oriented functionality.

While it may seem like a foregone conclusion that Apple would build its wearable's capabilities, a report from Reuters adds context, saying the company is moving to position a next-gen version as a health and wellness aid.

Sources familiar with Apple's plans claim future hardware revisions will be revealed alongside "richer health features" powered by advanced sensors.

Announced at a special event on Tuesday, Apple Watch will come with a number of built-in sensors when it launches in early 2015. iOS device owners are likely familiar with the wearable's accelerometer and gyroscope, which measure movement, but Apple is introducing a completely new element with its custom heart rate sensor.

Unlike conductive-type sensors, Apple created an optical system that combines light data gathered from both visible and infrared spectrums. Other smartwatches have employed variations of optical sensing systems, but Apple's combination of LEDs and photodiodes is unique to Apple Watch.

Not incorporated into the design are power-hungry components like GPS and cellular radios, though Apple Watch can access such data by piggy-backing off a connected iPhone. Apple is looking into new methods of activity quantification, however, as seen in the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, both of which sport a new M8 motion coprocessor that can measure stairs climbed via a built-in barometer.

Fitness was definitely considered with Apple Watch, as the device's operating system features dedicated assets for counting steps, tracking workouts and even monitoring how long a user stands during the day. There is room for improvement, however, and Apple could possibly integrate HealthKit app tie-ins or more granular analytics of generated motion.

AppleInsider was able to spend some hands-on time with the upcoming device and found the hardware to be up to Apple's high-quality standards. There are a few issues left unanswered, however, including battery life, time to charge and exact specs on waterproofing.