Rumors that Apple is getting ready to unveil the Apple Watch 2 are nearing fever pitch. And the top feature it's predicted to have is cellular connectivity, which will cut the tie with the iPhone. It's a feature people felt the initial Apple Watch was missing, and it's a feature that some Android Wear devices now have.
But be careful what you wish for, because once you get this feature, you'll probably start hating it.
The first problem with getting cellular into Apple Watch 2 will be powering it. Cellular takes a lot of power and is one of the biggest draws on a smartphone's battery (the other being the display). The current Apple Watch has a 205mAh or 250mAh battery - depending on whether it is the 38mm or 42mm model - and this is good for about a day.
Here's Apple's use-case for working out how big a battery Apple Watch needed:
"Our goal for battery life was 18 hours after an overnight charge, factoring in things like checking the time, receiving notifications, using apps, and doing a 30-minute workout," said Apple.
Adding cellular is going to change things dramatically.
Existing smartwatches with cellular connectivity have much larger batteries. LG's Urbane 2nd Edition features a 570mAh battery, and even with a battery that's almost three times that of the Apple Watch, some users still complain about battery life.
It's possible that Apple might try to offset some of these issues by using the iPhone's cellular connection when it's in range, and then there are gains Apple can make by improving the efficiency of the components, but once Apple Watch becomes a standalone product, all-eyes are going to be on the battery meter.
OK, so you're not concerned about battery life. Well, how much are you willing to pay for having cellular on your wrist? LG Urbane 2nd Edition owners pay Verizon $10 a month for the privilege, while owners on AT&T pay $5. Sure, it's not a huge amount, especially compared to the price of the smartwatch itself, but it really adds up over a year, especially when you consider that all this is largely an unnecessary convenience you're paying for.
On top of that, how much cellular do you expect to use with Apple Watch 2? In reality, you're not going to do much calling on it, and data usage will likely be low since you're not going to be surfing the web or watching your favorite YouTube channels or cat videos on that tiny display.
And if you're paying for the cellular connection, you're more likely to want to use it, and the more you use it, the faster you're ripping through your battery.
People seem to like the Apple Watch. But do they like it enough to hand over cash to their cellphone provider every month?
All this introduces another issue. Apple spent a lot of time and money convincing people the iPhone would replace a whole raft of devices.
It was the era of convergence.
But then Apple wanted to sell more products, so it came up with the iPad and Apple Watch. The iPad initially looked like it was going to be a hit, but then sales started flagging. We don't know how well Apple Watch is selling, but it's safe to assume it's not selling even as well as iPad.
The further Apple moves from the iPhone, the further the product is from being relevant.
And this makes perfect sense, given that even Apple finds it hard to come up with killer users for either platform. The iPad now seems to be pushed as a tool for creative people, and the Apple Watch is primarily about fitness. While each device has its own merits, they're very niche compared to the iPhone.
So, not only will Apple have to squeeze more battery life into or out of Apple Watch 2, but it will have to convince people that it's worth paying extra to use cellular when the device is still little more than a second screen for iPhone.
Sounds like a tough sell.