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Apple Watch Series 4: What publishers need to know

Apple’s fall event is a little over a week from now, and excitement is building up for this year’s line of new devices, with a twist.

While new iPhones are a given, unlike previous years, the chatter is strong about the Apple Watch—what’s expected to be called the Apple Watch Series 4—and with good reason.

While the Cupertino company prefers to keep things secret till the big reveal, it appears that 9to5Mac has already shared the first look of the new Apple Watch Series 4, and it features the biggest changes since the original model.

For context, while the company has been improving its wearable with faster processors and features such as GPS and cellular connectivity, the Apple Watch design hasn’t been updated since its debut in 2015.

Incidentally, the device is also expected to come pre-installed with the new watchOS 5, that brings a host of new functionality to Apple’s wearable.

The new Watch would very likely further cement Apple’s position as the #1 watch brand in the world, ahead of traditional brands like Rolex, smartwatch competitors like Samsung and Fitbit, as well as fashion companies like Fossil who are getting in on the connected timepiece action.

Thanks to the 9to5Mac leak, along with patents, recent acquisitions and industry sources, we can paint a pretty good picture of what’s coming.

Looks like this may be a massive year for the popular wearable, and here’s what we know about the forthcoming fourth generation Apple Watch, and its potential impact on publishers.

15% bigger, edge-to-edge display

The leak indicates that Apple is introducing a much larger display on the watch that has apparently been enlarged by up to 15%—an iPhone X-like makeover—achieved by dramatically reducing the bezel size and taking the display edge-to-edge.

While many news publishers and curators—like NYTimes, Time, Flipboard, Bloomberg, Washington Post, The Economist, BBC News and CNN—already have apps on the Apple Watch, the added real estate will enable and encourage readers to read more, directly on the watch.

More info, watch complications

The brand-new watch is capable of showing way more information than what the current faces offer, and there’s more on-watch complications.

Watch complications are functions that exist in addition to telling time, enabling special functions that are performed and displayed on the watch, e.g., weather, music, activity monitors.

The analog watch face in the leaked image shows a total of 9 complications around the time and within the clock hands. There is a possibility that other watch faces may even offer more.

More complications boosts the usefulness of the device for at-a-glance information updates, and gives one-tap access to the most frequently used apps.

This increases the actual usage potential of the device, and may reduce and replace many of the tasks that users need to bring out their iPhones for.

Podcasts and Audio

The Podcast app is finally coming to Apple Watch, and users can listen and control playback from their favourite shows by using the wearable solely. Now podcast aficionados can listen to their favourite programs from the comfort of their wrists, with the help of Siri.

This naturally brings more safety and convenience to listeners on the go, without the hassles, distractions and safety issues associated with trying to control an app via the phone, especially while on the move.

According to Apple, “Users can now listen to their favorite podcasts on the go with Apple Podcasts on Apple Watch and stream any podcast in the catalog by using Siri. Episodes will automatically sync to Apple Watch, and as they’re listened to on other devices, the app will automatically refresh with the latest episode.

A new feature for developers allows music, audiobooks and meditation sessions from apps such as Pandora, Audible and 10% Happier to be synced to Apple Watch for playback offline without the user’s iPhone nearby.”

With a pair of AirPods, the listening experience will be even better, since AirPods volume can now be adjusted with the crown.

‘Podcasts’ also comes with its own complication, so the app is accessible straight from the watch face. Also, Siri can be used to search for any show on Podcasts; all of which adds up to enhanced content consumption convenience for users.

Solid-state controls, better waterproofing

Looking at the digital crown and the side button, there’s also an obvious change from previous generations on the Apple Watch Series 4.

The crown appears to be more flush with the body of the watch, with a slightly different shape. The side button also looks a bit flatter, supporting recent rumours that Apple would drop the physical side button and digital crown for solid-state controls.

This would also allow for better, more reliable waterproofing, and consequently, more consistent usage for the device, especially around water bodies and in more challenging weather conditions.

Apple appears to have added a new hole between the digital crown and the side button, which is most likely an additional microphone.

Siri Improvements

Watch interaction is set to get smoother and more unobtrusive, especially with the new “Raise to Speak” feature, that allows chatting with Siri just by raising the wrist, without having to say, “Hey, Siri.”

The Siri watch face now learns user behaviour, proactively suggesting useful content and shortcuts at the right time and place throughout the day.

It also works with third-party apps, something publishers can use to encourage relevant content consumption.

Items of interest

There are a few other possible conclusions/deductions from the leaks, technology developments and industry sources. While not exactly of direct interest to publishers, they may all contribute to making the Apple Watch a more appealing device and a solid platform.

In short:

  • Apple might double down on the cellular connectivity it introduced in the Series 3 by launching an LTE-only Series 4
  • It also looks like Apple could move to microLED displays for the Apple Watch. microLED screens require roughly half the power, while also being brighter and offering higher contrast ratios.
  • microLED also helps to make the screens thinner, which in turn could lead to slimmer devices.

The Apple Watch Series 4 is likely to be announced on September 12, alongside Apple’s new lineup of iPhone models. 

Images courtesy 9to5Mac and Apple