Apple Watch of the future could have a modular back for upgrades & new sensors

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in Apple Watch
Future versions of the Apple Watch could be upgradable, with the addition of a modular section to the back that adds new sensors and functionality to the wearable device, or to enhance the existing functions like battery life.




The Apple Watch is one of the most popular wearable devices available, in part due to its sleek and compact design and its functionality. However, the small device is built in a way that makes it hard to add new features or functions to it, leaving users to upgrade the entire device if they want new elements.

The lack of upgradability also means users are limited only to the capabilities of the device itself. For example, short of using a portable power bank and bringing the charging puck with them, a user cannot go off-grid for a week and expect the Apple Watch to last the entire time equipped with just the currently available amount of battery life.

In a patent application titled "Modular System for Watch" and published by the US Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday, Apple proposes it may be possible to add new elements to an Apple Watch-like device, by building in the option to upgrade via the rear.

An example of using bolts to hold an Apple Watch module to the back of the device
An example of using bolts to hold an Apple Watch module to the back of the device


Rather than allowing users to open up the Apple Watch, Apple suggests the use of a variety of modules that can be attached to the back of the device. This effectively helps eliminate any possibility of the Apple Watch itself losing any of its existing water resistance capabilities.

The module is able to mount onto the back of the Apple Watch, attached by a variety of different mechanisms. Rails and bolt systems are suggested as ways to do so, among others, though the filing also includes claims where the modules could be easily connected or removed from the main Watch body without necessarily requiring tools to do so, via the use of retaining and release mechanisms.

By placing the module on the rear, it is also able to be held in place by tension from the Watch pulled by the band against the user's wrist, helping further secure the add-on. There is also mention of a possible "water-tight seal," which could help maintain the integrity of elements between the module and the Watch.

An example of a pogo pin that could be used to establish a connection between Apple Watch and module
An example of a pogo pin that could be used to establish a connection between Apple Watch and module


To enable held components offer extra functionality to the Apple Watch itself, there have to be connections where the module can openly communicate or transfer power with the main body. This could be via the use of a pogo pin, a spring-loaded pin that can provide pressure against a plate to establish a physical connection.

The application lists its inventors as Maegan K. Spencer, Sherry Tang, and Morgan T. McClure.

Apple files numerous patent applications on a weekly basis, but while the existence of a patent indicates areas of interest for Apple's research and development efforts, there is no guarantee that the concepts will appear in a future product or service.

Modular Apple Watch modules have been explored in the past, but have so far failed to make it to market in any meaningful form. The closest patent to the latest filing would be the "Auxiliary electronic device attachable to a wearable electronic device," granted to Apple in April 2018, which suggests how a plate could snap into the existing Watch Band slots to attach to the watch.

Other ideas have included upgraded bands containing sensors and batteries, a band that hides electronics in bracelet links to keep the mass of the Apple Watch itself down, and even using watch bands as wireless antennas.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 20
    A watch should at least be able to change battery, especially if the battery only lasts 3 years from daily charging.
    MplsPrazorpitrandominternetpersoncaladanianminicoffeelarrya
  • Reply 2 of 20
    I was a little surprised this wasn't the case from the start. When Apple announced the original Edition I figured there would be a way to swap internals and use the same watch body. Clearly I was mistaken and now there are people out there with $10,000+ Apple Watches that are far behind an Apple Watch you can buy today, just 5 years later. I hardly wear my Series 0 Space Black with Link Bracelet anymore, but I'm happy I can use the band on my Series 5.
    spice-boycaladanianwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 20
    I don’t see that happening.
    doozydozentjwolfrazorpitlarrya
  • Reply 4 of 20
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    I was a little surprised this wasn't the case from the start. When Apple announced the original Edition I figured there would be a way to swap internals and use the same watch body. Clearly I was mistaken and now there are people out there with $10,000+ Apple Watches that are far behind an Apple Watch you can buy today, just 5 years later. I hardly wear my Series 0 Space Black with Link Bracelet anymore, but I'm happy I can use the band on my Series 5.

    People that can afford the Edition don't care. They buy $250 shirts and use them a few days.
    doozydozenStrangeDaysJWSCwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 20
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,277member
    I suspect an old AI member has been reincarnated and now posting under a new name but making the same type of OTT posts. 
    doozydozen
  • Reply 6 of 20
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,953member
    A watch should at least be able to change battery, especially if the battery only lasts 3 years from daily charging.
    My series 3 watch is 2 1/2 years old and still works just fine; there's perhaps a slight decrease in battery life, but nothing remarkable. I can still get close to 36 hours of life out of the battery. Unless it completely dies in the next 6 months I expect it will last longer than 3 years.

    The bigger 'issue' is that we're still on the steeper part of the curve for the Apple Watch and the capabilities continue to increase so they become outdated before the battery wears out (and end up being more technological waste.) This isn't as dramatic as it was with iPhones when they first came out but still plays into it and I do think the batteries should be replaceable, but to say the watch is dead after 3 years is hyperbole.

    edited February 2020 GeorgeBMactjwolfwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 20
    MplsP said:
    A watch should at least be able to change battery, especially if the battery only lasts 3 years from daily charging.
    My series 3 watch is 2 1/2 years old and still works just fine; there's perhaps a slight decrease in battery life, but nothing remarkable. I can still get close to 36 hours of life out of the battery. Unless it completely dies in the next 6 months I expect it will last longer than 3 years.
    Right. As I mentioned my Series 0 still works like it did when it was new. Battery doesn’t last as long as it did and it’s slow (compared to today’s AWs) but it still looks nice. Upgrading the internals would be cool. 

    Beats said:
    I was a little surprised this wasn't the case from the start. When Apple announced the original Edition I figured there would be a way to swap internals and use the same watch body. Clearly I was mistaken and now there are people out there with $10,000+ Apple Watches that are far behind an Apple Watch you can buy today, just 5 years later. I hardly wear my Series 0 Space Black with Link Bracelet anymore, but I'm happy I can use the band on my Series 5.

    People that can afford the Edition don't care. They buy $250 shirts and use them a few days.
    Maybe for the original Editions. Today’s Editions are priced within reach of many more people (and similarly to my Series 0). Being able to upgrade the internals is appealing to me and likely many more who don’t want to spend money for a new case every year (no matter which style) but might spend less to get a new battery and faster processor, etc. 
    GeorgeBMacsphericwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 20
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    This adds bundles of potential for the years and decades ahead.

    But for now, the functionality of the watch is increasing so quickly on a yearly basis that there's not a lot of reason to go this route -- yet.
    I see adding functional watch bands coming before this.

    But first I am hoping that Apple could convert from its optical heart rate sensor to an electrical one (you know it can get the signal because it already is for the EKG function).  An electrical sensor would take up a lot less room on the back and open the back up for other, additional sensors as well as (I assume) greatly improve battery life during exercise.
  • Reply 9 of 20
    razorpitrazorpit Posts: 1,796member
    I wish you could replace the battery in the watch without destroying it.
  • Reply 10 of 20
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,648member
    Please add a few PCI express slots and some thunderbolt 3 ports.
    Extensibility would be endless. 
    StrangeDaysJWSCsphericwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 20
    A watch should at least be able to change battery, especially if the battery only lasts 3 years from daily charging.
    This is a wrist-worn computer, not a watch. You can already get the battery serviced on the AW, for $79. This is far less than a cleaning service from the nice watch brands (which can go for $800 in the case of a Rolex, etc). If they can make it user replaceable and not introduce risk to the water tightness, great. Otherwise, I don't mind paying $79 after a few years (tho in actuality, I sold mine for $100 after a couple years and bought a newer one; better deal IMO).
    edited February 2020 randominternetpersonGeorgeBMaccaladanianJWSCwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 20

    Beats said:
    I was a little surprised this wasn't the case from the start. When Apple announced the original Edition I figured there would be a way to swap internals and use the same watch body. Clearly I was mistaken and now there are people out there with $10,000+ Apple Watches that are far behind an Apple Watch you can buy today, just 5 years later. I hardly wear my Series 0 Space Black with Link Bracelet anymore, but I'm happy I can use the band on my Series 5.

    People that can afford the Edition don't care. They buy $250 shirts and use them a few days.
    Agreed. Flying a private jet costs more than than flying even first class, but the people I know who do it don't care.
    Beatswatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 20
    Doubt this will happen. Apple likes things nice and sealed nowadays for the sake of water resistance, compactness and yes, maybe even a little planned obsolescence.
  • Reply 14 of 20
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,953member
    A watch should at least be able to change battery, especially if the battery only lasts 3 years from daily charging.
    This is a wrist-wrong computer, not just a watch. You can already get the battery serviced on the AW, for $79. This is far less than a cleaning service from the nice watch brands (which can go for $800 in the case of a Rolex, etc). If they can make it user replaceable and not introduce risk to the water tightness, great. Otherwise, I don't mind paying $79 after a few years (tho in actuality, I sold mine for $100 after a couple years and bought a newer one; better deal IMO).
    Does the ‘service’ actually replace the battery or just swap out the apple watch for a new one like they do with AirPods? 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 20
    MplsP said:
    A watch should at least be able to change battery, especially if the battery only lasts 3 years from daily charging.
    This is a wrist-wrong computer, not just a watch. You can already get the battery serviced on the AW, for $79. This is far less than a cleaning service from the nice watch brands (which can go for $800 in the case of a Rolex, etc). If they can make it user replaceable and not introduce risk to the water tightness, great. Otherwise, I don't mind paying $79 after a few years (tho in actuality, I sold mine for $100 after a couple years and bought a newer one; better deal IMO).
    Does the ‘service’ actually replace the battery or just swap out the apple watch for a new one like they do with AirPods? 
    I'm under the impression they replace the battery. If want to go nuts you can waste a few hours trying it yourself:

    https://www.ifixit.com/Guide/Apple+Watch+Battery+Replacement/41080

    As for APs, that doesn't bother me that they replace them, since Apple is great at recycling materials and surely isn't tossing the consumed batteries in the ground. It's more processed and recycled that the typical kids toy, so when I get the APP I'll gladly pay $30 for the AppleCare and get the battery service before its term ends.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 20
    Make. It. Thinner.
    spheric
  • Reply 17 of 20
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,658member
    Huh.  Apple will likely never again make a small mobile device upgradable.  And this is one never I’ll never stop nevering.  
    edited February 2020 watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 20
    razorpit said:
    I wish you could replace the battery in the watch without destroying it.
    I think that would be nice, but I just went from a Series 0 to a 5, and I am very happy with it.  4.5 years on the Series 0 ordered a few days after it became available isn’t too bad, and just changing the battery would give me a longer day with it, but the functions of the 5 are such an advancement that I don’t think that changing the battery out is that much of a lost feature.

    Having said that, my daughter has my old 0, and I see your point on the battery exchangeability.
    GeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 20
    razorpit said:
    I wish you could replace the battery in the watch without destroying it.
    I think that would be nice, but I just went from a Series 0 to a 5, and I am very happy with it.  4.5 years on the Series 0 ordered a few days after it became available isn’t too bad, and just changing the battery would give me a longer day with it, but the functions of the 5 are such an advancement that I don’t think that changing the battery out is that much of a lost feature.

    Having said that, my daughter has my old 0, and I see your point on the battery exchangeability.

    So true!
    I think the earlier days of the iPhone may be the analogy:  until fairly recently the expected life of an iPhone was about 2 years.  That was of course partly because of 2 year contracts with the carriers and partly because the state of the art had moved so far that a 2 year old phone was ancient.   Today, phones run 4-5 years and battery replacements have become routine.

    The AppleWatch will eventually reach that maturity where updates are less revolutionary and more evolutionary.  But that day is not this day.

    But, regardless, due to its extreme emphasis on size, weight and water resistance, a user replaceable battery (unless it is moved to the band) is highly unlikely
  • Reply 20 of 20
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member

    Beats said:
    I was a little surprised this wasn't the case from the start. When Apple announced the original Edition I figured there would be a way to swap internals and use the same watch body. Clearly I was mistaken and now there are people out there with $10,000+ Apple Watches that are far behind an Apple Watch you can buy today, just 5 years later. I hardly wear my Series 0 Space Black with Link Bracelet anymore, but I'm happy I can use the band on my Series 5.

    People that can afford the Edition don't care. They buy $250 shirts and use them a few days.
    Agreed. Flying a private jet costs more than than flying even first class, but the people I know who do it don't care.

    And the original poster is an example of that. He mentions having bought a Series 0 which is "outdated" by todays standards but he still bought it. People In third-world countries would think he's crazy.
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