W2 chip in Apple Watch Series 3 boosts wireless speeds while maintaining battery life

Posted:
in Apple Watch
One of the things Apple briefly touched on in announcing the Apple Watch Series 3 last week was the W2, a new self-designed wireless chip that's nominally the successor to the W1 found in audio accessories like AirPods and the Powerbeats3. But what advantages does it offer, and why is it in a watch instead?




Apple has been coy about the subject, saying only that it boosts the Watch's Wi-Fi speeds "up to 85 percent" while making both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi "50 percent more power efficient." In fact an official specifications page mentions only an "Apple wireless chip," despite marketing elsewhere.

The chip's purpose isn't so much a dramatic performance boost as it is smoothing out the Watch experience. The Series 3 still only supports 2.4-gigahertz 802.11n Wi-Fi, for instance, so don't expect to max out a Google Fiber line anytime soon.

Above all, Apple's main concern seems to be offsetting the extra power consumption from LTE/UMTS cellular support in some models. Both the Series 2 and the Series 3 (cellular and non-cellular) are rated "up to" 18 hours of battery life, and while it remains to be seen how LTE will affect this, just coming close to that maximum would be an achievement.

Reducing battery drain also means keeping the battery the same size, or smaller, ensuring that the Series 3 is imperceptibly bigger. On stage, Apple COO Jeff Williams made a point of attacking some other LTE-equipped smartwatches, arguing that "if you don't do it right, it gets so big it looks like a house arrest bracelet."

The narrow goals of the W2 are obvious when you consider that the chip isn't in Apple's high-end Beats Studio 3 Wireless, announced a week prior to the Series 3, or in the iPhone 8 and X. A general-purpose component might be valuable to company, but that will probably have to wait until 2018 -- if not later.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 3,976member
    Really? Who cares until the service providers can have better services like no throttle LTE speed on AW, dropping monthly service fee. 1 time activation fee is acceptable since it's a shared plan with the handset, but monthly service charge is bs.
    SendMcjakAvieshek
  • Reply 2 of 16
    peteopeteo Posts: 358member
    I am surprised that apple did not mention an improved speed with Bluetooth. Since the watch is connected to the phone most of the time this way it would be a nice speed increase, as of now it does not sound like Bluetooth speed has been improved 
    Avieshek
  • Reply 3 of 16
    SendMcjakSendMcjak Posts: 66unconfirmed, member
    fallenjt said:
    Really? Who cares until the service providers can have better services like no throttle LTE speed on AW, dropping monthly service fee. 1 time activation fee is acceptable since it's a shared plan with the handset, but monthly service charge is bs.
    Agree 100% -- I'll pay for the one-time administrative overhead of adding a new device to my account, but what am I paying $10/month for thereafter?  That's not rhetorical --does anyone know?  

    I pay $dollars for a given data allocation / month.  Regardless of what I use to consume that data (iPhone, Apple Watch, tablet, etc.), I pay ... so what expense is the $10/month covering for AT&T, Verizon, etc.?
    edited September 2017 pscooter63Aviesheklolliver
  • Reply 4 of 16
    Bluetooth 5.0?
  • Reply 5 of 16
    Roger_FingasRoger_Fingas Posts: 133member, editor
    Avieshek said:
    Bluetooth 5.0?
    Unfortunately, it's only Bluetooth 4.2.
    Avieshek
  • Reply 6 of 16
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,181member
    SendMcjak said:
    but what am I paying $10/month for thereafter?  That's not rhetorical --does anyone know?  

    I pay $dollars for a given data allocation / month.  Regardless of what I use to consume that data (iPhone, Apple Watch, tablet, etc.), I pay ... so what expense is the $10/month covering for AT&T, Verizon, etc.?
    If you're asking why does att need the monthly $10, the answer is obviously— they don't. It's free money for them, and they want it. Texts were the same thing. Now unlimited texting is part of almost every plan and though they're not getting a separate fee for it, it's not costing them anything to provide it.

    IF we all stopped using various features in protest, we could probably get them do drop fees for services that cost them nothing and get better deals for time, data, and family plans.

    Hell, we're still paying for cellular calls we receive! That'll never change though it could. Convenience costs money. As long as we want it someone will charge for it. And most of us will pay it.
    StrangeDays
  • Reply 7 of 16
    BLiteBLite Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    Only excuse I can see is you now have two devices connecting to a cell tower instead of one. That IS an additional resource drain on the cell provider, but does it justify the $10? My cynicism says no.
    edited September 2017 StrangeDayslolliver
  • Reply 8 of 16
    macgui said:
    Hell, we're still paying for cellular calls we receive! That'll never change though it could. Convenience costs money. As long as we want it someone will charge for it. And most of us will pay it.
    US providers are worst in the world. Even in third work countries, receiving calls are free.
    lolliver
  • Reply 9 of 16
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 1,717member
    I thought the LTE watch was the most impressive thing last week.
    SoundJudgment
  • Reply 10 of 16
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,297member
    SendMcjak said:
    Agree 100% -- I'll pay for the one-time administrative overhead of adding a new device to my account, but what am I paying $10/month for thereafter?  That's not rhetorical --does anyone know?  




    This is really the same question as asking why you have to pay extra for your iPad to be on your account, too, even though it doesn't have a phone number and shares data. Partly because people are willing to pay the fee for it, but I'm guessing the technical side is that even though it doesn't have it's own phone number, it has it's own ID on the cellular network. I don't know whether that ID is linked to your phone number on their system of simply via your iPhone, but there is some technical overhead for the cellular provider to provide the connectivity.
    edited September 2017
  • Reply 11 of 16
    macgui said:
    SendMcjak said:
    but what am I paying $10/month for thereafter?  That's not rhetorical --does anyone know?  

    I pay $dollars for a given data allocation / month.  Regardless of what I use to consume that data (iPhone, Apple Watch, tablet, etc.), I pay ... so what expense is the $10/month covering for AT&T, Verizon, etc.?
    If you're asking why does att need the monthly $10, the answer is obviously— they don't. It's free money for them, and they want it. Texts were the same thing. Now unlimited texting is part of almost every plan and though they're not getting a separate fee for it, it's not costing them anything to provide it.

    IF we all stopped using various features in protest, we could probably get them do drop fees for services that cost them nothing and get better deals for time, data, and family plans.

    Hell, we're still paying for cellular calls we receive! That'll never change though it could. Convenience costs money. As long as we want it someone will charge for it. And most of us will pay it.
    Each device connecting directly to a cell tower has an IMEI so it needs to be accounted for and does take up a slot on the cell towers. It would also need to be tracked in the database that connects the phone numbers to the IMEI., FWIW, considering your phone number is primarily a directory to the device, I think it is quite possible that you could use both devices simultaneously and I’ll bet that both devices ring on incoming calls. 

    Not sure what the actual cost is to maintain the other device, but a lot of it is going to go towards the labor and tracking of a second device. $10 seems a little high, but it’s not the highway robbery so many people want to claim.
    beowulfschmidt
  • Reply 12 of 16
    MplsP said:
    SendMcjak said:
    Agree 100% -- I'll pay for the one-time administrative overhead of adding a new device to my account, but what am I paying $10/month for thereafter?  That's not rhetorical --does anyone know?  




    This is really the same question as asking why you have to pay extra for your iPad to be on your account, too, even though it doesn't have a phone number and shares data. Partly because people are willing to pay the fee for it, but I'm guessing the technical side is that even though it doesn't have it's own phone number, it has it's own ID on the cellular network. I don't know whether that ID is linked to your phone number on their system of simply via your iPhone, but there is some technical overhead for the cellular provider to provide the connectivity.
    Unless I'm mistaken, you get a separate phone number for the iPad, but the AW3 will have the same phone number as your iPhone.
    edited September 2017
  • Reply 13 of 16
    Avieshek said:
    Bluetooth 5.0?
    Unfortunately, it's only Bluetooth 4.2.
    Is there a no way to get notifications for comments? Like how 9to5mac uses Disqus?
  • Reply 14 of 16

    Hell, we're still paying for cellular calls we receive! That'll never change though it could. Convenience costs money. As long as we want it someone will charge for it. And most of us will pay it.
    Or we don't. I won't buy an LTE watch for $10/mo. Maybe 1%ers will, but screw them they can afford it. When Apple & Carriers want mass market, I'll be there if they can lower the price. Till then, I'm sticking with a non-LTE version.
  • Reply 15 of 16
    There's no phone app on the iPad, so what benefit would the number be? :)

    I think one of the reasons for the W2 chip would be seamless handover from wifi to LTE for Wifi calling (VoWIFI / UMA/GAN).  Apple would want to ensure that their latency is low enough that these could be done successfully.

    The AW3 prefers wifi over cellular to maximize battery life, so this is going to be a frequent thing, people switching as they stay on their call, but leave a wifi zone.

    My own opinion on the monthly fee....I think $5 is fair to pay for that additional session on the carrier's network.

    You know, if Apple did give us a native Phone app on the iPad, that would add an even greater incentive to have pairing with Apple Watch and iPad....for those of us that don't talk on the phone a lot that is. :)   Many people could get away without having an iPhone. :)
    edited September 2017
  • Reply 16 of 16
    BLite said:
    Only excuse I can see is you now have two devices connecting to a cell tower instead of one. That IS an additional resource drain on the cell provider, but does it justify the $10? My cynicism says no.
    $10/month is the opening gambit by cell providers. It’ll drop as competition increases.
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