Rumor: Apple working on 'smart bands' for Apple Watch to add new health tracking functions
A new rumor claims that Apple will add capabilities to the Apple Watch, and sell upgrades without the need to buy an entirely new watch, in the form of "smart bands" that could launch as early as 2016.
Citing unnamed sources, Czech website Letem Svetem Applem reported on Friday that Apple is planning to announce new bands that will connect to the hidden data port on the Apple Watch and add new functionality to the wrist-worn device. Specifically, it was said that bands will add blood oxygen, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and body temperature sensors.
It was said that these sensors must be in the band anyhow and cannot be a part of the watch to give accurate readings. For example, a body temperature sensor would be affected by heat from the components inside the watch, and must be placed on the opposite end of the wrist.
The sources allegedly said that Apple is planning to launch its first sensor bands for the Apple Watch in early 2016. The company is said to be working on multiple smart bands that will be available in a variety of styles and configurations.
Apple is said to be cognizant of the fact that many consumers could be unlikely to purchase new watches every year. Smart band upgrades are allegedly the company's plan to continue hardware sales for legacy watches.
All current Apple Watch models include a "hidden" data port within one of the strap attachment grooves. It is a six-pin connector capable of transferring data and power to the device, but it is covered and not currently intended for use by end users.
Because the diagnostics port is covered, a large question would be how Apple might allow users to access the port to work with smart bands. If the rumor is in fact accurate, it's possible that users might need to visit an Apple Store in order to have their smart band "installed" on their Apple Watch.
The Apple Watch was introduced in September of 2014, but didn't hit the market until April of this year. If the company sticks to its usual annual release cycle for products, it's likely that a major Apple Watch announcement won't come until next spring.
In the interim, the company is working on watchOS 2, a forthcoming software update that will enable native third-party apps on the Apple Watch. The update is scheduled to arrive this fall, and is currently available to developers in a beta form.
There were also rumors earlier this year that suggested Apple was working on different casing materials for the current Apple Watch design. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities suggested in March that Apple was planning to launch the new casings this fall, expanding the lineup beyond aluminum, stainless steel, and 18-karat gold.
Other materials that Apple could introduce include white gold, titanium, or even ceramic. Less common materials in the existing watch industry include carbon fiber, rubber, or custom creations from fine watchmakers like Rolex's "Rolesor" and Hublot's "Magic Gold."