The Wall Street Journal reports that the next generation of Apple smartwatches may be marked by a major innovation in keeping with the brand's reputation: 4G connectivity. That would mean that the tech masterpieces will no longer need to be tethered to an iPhone to be fully functional.
The next generation of Apple Watches may be equipped with on-board SIM cards, a development that means that they will no longer need to be paired with Apple iPhones, which are currently indispensable for today's models.
A 4G model of Apple's smartwatch is therefore a likely addition to the Cupertino giant's product catalogue. The on-board SIM card will enable users to communicate (make calls and send SMS/MMS messages)and directly connect to 3G or 4G networks. Further functionalities are also promised for the Apple Watch 3, which is set to benefit from an expected fall update to watchOS.
This isn't the first time that a rumor of functional independence for Apple Watch has come up. What's more, the latest news also coincides with reports of a reference to a 4G-connected watch in the firmware of Apple's future HomePod smart speaker, due for release on the US market in late 2017.
The new direction is in keeping with the spirit of the times. The latest version of Android Wear, installed on most of Apple Watch's competitors, now has the capacity to manage independent applications that do not need to be paired to a smartphone to function correctly.
This in turn has encouraged several smartwatch makers to launch models equipped with SIM cards and 4G connectivity: most notably the LG Watch Sport and LG Watch Style, and the Huawei Watch 2 to name but the most prestigious. And let's not forget that an on-board SIM is also a feature of the Samsung Gear S3, which runs under the manufacturer's proprietary Tizen software.
The increasing prevalence of 4G-connected watches means Apple can no longer contemplate bringing out a new version of its smartwatch that still needs to be paired to a phone. Clearly the trend is for standalone watches that can communicate, play music and share data on social networks without any help.
It should be noted that Apple still refrains from communicating the sales figures for its smartwatch, which is counted in an consistently increasing figure for sales of Apple's much-vaunted "other products” category, which includes Apple Watches, Apple TVs, iPods, AirPods and the firm's Beats accessories.