What I’m Hoping to See in the Next Generation of Apple Watch: X Edition

Apple’s intelligent timepiece advanced in several significant ways in 2023, as demonstrated by the Apple Watch Series 9 and WatchOS 10. While the Series 9 represents only a minor improvement over the Series 8, its new Double Tap gesture introduced a novel way of engaging with the watch — the first such change in years. The new widget-centric interface in WatchOS 10 also enhances the ability to quickly see bits of information.

However, Apple might have significant plans in store for this year’s Apple Watch, if a report from Bloomberg proves to be correct. Apple could deviate from its usual naming convention and dub its next smartwatch the Apple Watch X (read as 10) in celebration of the device’s 10th anniversary, comparable to the iPhone X, according to the report. The so-called Apple Watch X, which could potentially debut in 2024 or 2025, reportedly might possess a thinner design, a new mechanism for attaching bands, a microLED screen, and blood pressure monitoring, per Bloomberg.

There are numerous alternative ways Apple could enhance its smartwatch as well. The company could transform its watch into an even more intelligent and supportive health assistant with more AI integration. Given that Double Tap is fairly new, there is ample opportunity for updates and optimizations that make it more convenient than physically tapping the screen. Changes such as these could be especially crucial as Apple confronts new competition from Google’s Fitbit, which intends to introduce new AI-enhanced features this year, as well as Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy Ring.

Then there are the upgrades I’ve been desiring for years, such as extended battery life, exercise recovery metrics, more adaptable activity objectives, and additional insights into sleep. I remain hopeful to see these improvements arrive either in a new model or through a software update. However, here are some supplementary ways the Apple Watch could evolve in 2024.

Increased AI intelligence, particularly for health-related features

A screenshot image showing Siri and Health from Apple's September 2023 event. A screenshot image showing Siri and Health from Apple's September 2023 event.

Siri will be able to respond to health-related questions on the Series 9, thanks to a forthcoming software update.

Apple; screenshot by James Martin/CNET

Apple enhanced the Apple Watch Series 9 with an AI boost by making it the first model capable of processing certain types of Siri requests locally. Queries that do not necessitate an answer from the internet — such as setting alarms or timers — can be executed on the device itself without contacting the cloud, speeding up the entire process. Siri can also respond to health-related questions in this manner, allowing for it to handle requests regarding your sleep from the previous night and about Activity Ring progress.

However, Apple could potentially transform its watch into an even more intuitive health assistant, and it feels like this new Siri functionality is just a step in that direction. The emergence of generative AI has opened up new prospects for making data easier to comprehend by delivering answers in a more conversational manner. Google’s Fitbit, one of Apple’s rivals in the health monitoring arena, is already exploring this field. In October, Fitbit teased a new program, dubbed Fitbit Labs, that will be introduced this year. It will initially connect certain data points and leverage generative AI to address questions such as why you were more fatigued than usual after your morning run. The company also believes that AI can be beneficial for helping users set practical fitness objectives, as Google’s Ajay Surie recently informed CNET.

Such insights go beyond merely logging data and transforming it into a graph or chart. They can make it easier to genuinely alter your habits based on the information emanating from your smartwatch. The Apple Watch’s Activity Rings already encourage you to get up and move or take a few additional steps. Now, envision how much more motivating it could be with observations like these.

Future Apple Watches could potentially comprise more AI-powered health tools. Bloomberg reports that the technology giant is developing an AI-powered coaching program that will provide tailored suggestions and guidance to Apple Watch wearers.

Additional Double Tap functionality

Apple Watch Series 9 on a wrist as someone double taps Apple Watch Series 9 on a wrist as someone double taps

To execute a Double Tap on the Apple Watch Series 9, you tap your index finger and thumb together.

Richard Peterson/CNET

Apple should reinforce the Double Tap feature by incorporating more customization choices. The gesture, which entails tapping your thumb and index finger together twice, presently enables you to scroll through your widgets, answer a phone call, snooze an alarm, pause a timer, and more.

However, it would be advantageous to have more ways to personalize Double Tap. You should have the ability to determine whether Double Tap advances your widget stack or selects a widget, or whether it pauses music or skips to the next track. Despite the flexibility it currently provides, more options would be preferable. For instance, you should be able to decide whether to repeat a timer instead of ending it, or snooze an alarm rather than dismissing it. Presently, Double Tap simply dismisses timers and snooze alarms without the option to perform the alternative action. Providing the flexibility to choose or potentially triple-tap to execute the alternative action would be beneficial.

Double Tap is not intended to replace touch interactions with your watch, so its functionality is understandably restricted compared to other gestures like tapping and swiping. If Apple does indeed have updates planned for Double Tap, there might be no need to wait for a new Apple Watch model. Apple could potentially incorporate such changes in its forthcoming software update.

A modernized design

The Apple Watch Series 9 in stainless steel (left) and aluminum (right). The Apple Watch Series 9 in stainless steel (left) and aluminum (right).

From left: The Apple Watch Series 9 in stainless steel and in aluminum.

Richard Peterson/CNET

The Apple Watch has undergone several design modifications over the years, but it’s the more expensive Apple Watch Ultra that has received more substantial physical improvements, such as a larger screen and a more rugged build. While Apple should not stray too far from the current model’s appearance, I would appreciate some alterations. Apple overhauled the iPhone’s design for its 10th anniversary, so I could envision the company doing something special for the 10th generation Apple Watch, such as perhaps introducing a new finish or color.

Bloomberg indicates that Apple may be preparing some design updates for the rumored Apple Watch X. The company is reportedly developing a slimmer case and microLED screens for the Apple Watch, which would lend a more vivid appearance to its diminutive display. A novel magnetic method of connecting wristbands could also be in the works for a future Apple Watch, according to the report, although it remains uncertain whether this would debut on the Apple Watch X. Such a change would likely carry both advantages and drawbacks for Apple Watch owners. On the upside, it could facilitate slimming down the watch’s case, as the report from Bloomberg states that the current attachment method occupies a significant amount of space. Conversely, it would likely disrupt compatibility with wristbands from the past decade.

Design is not always the most critical factor for tech gadgets. However, smartwatches are an exception, considering they are intended to be openly displayed all day long. It is one of the rare instances in which a fresh design might be sufficient to persuade people with older watches to upgrade.

An Action button on the regular model

Apple Watch Ultra 2 Apple Watch Ultra 2

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 (pictured) and Apple Watch Ultra have an Action button.

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