We are now seven generations into the Apple Watch, and while the device has gained new features and functionality year after year, Apple hasn’t taken many chances with the design. There have been some tweaks here and there, but the original 2015 model does not look too different from last year’s Apple Watch Series 6. Of course, the Apple Watch is still the best-selling wearable on the market, and there’s no reason to fix what isn’t broken, but according to a new report from Bloomberg, Apple may finally be looking to branch out in a new direction.
People familiar with Apple’s plans tell Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman that Apple is considering a new Apple Watch model with a rugged exterior that would be targeted at athletes, hikers, and anyone else who might want to bring their watch with them in an extreme environment. The company has reportedly talked about introducing the rugged Apple Watch in late 2021 or 2022 at the earliest, which means that it could be unveiled alongside the iPhone 13.
According to the report, Apple’s rugged smartwatch is being referred to as the “Explorer Edition” internally. It would have all of the same features as a standard Apple Watch model, in addition to extra impact resistance and protection, similar to Casio’s G-Shock watches, which are shock- and water-resistant. The new, rugged Apple Watch would exist alongside the standard lineup, just like the Apple Watch SE that launched last year.
As Bloomberg notes, new Apple Watch models are already water-resistant up to 50 meters, but by adding a rubber casing around the watch, Apple could provide even more protection in environments where aluminum, titanium, and stainless steel exteriors might be at greater risk of being damaged.
In addition to a rugged Apple Watch, Apple is also working on new swim-tracking features for the smartwatch line. Its interest in offering more athlete-appropriate hardware stretches back to at least 2015, as the company was reportedly thinking about developing a rugged model shortly after it launched the very first Apple Watch. The latest Apple Watch models are likely enough for the average jogger, but Apple has allowed other vendors to control the extreme sports market for the past six years or so. That might change before the end of 2022.
We haven’t heard much about Apple’s wearable plans this year, but providing the industry stays on track and the pandemic continues to wind down, the company will likely launch the Apple Watch Series 7 this fall. In 2020, we got the Apple Watch SE at the same time as the Series 6, so perhaps the Apple Watch Explorer Edition will be the additional model in 2021. Either way, all of Apple’s new devices should launch on time this fall, with one insider predicting that the iPhone 13 will be available to purchase “in the third week of September.”