Rumour: Apple’s going to change Apple Watch bands (but not this year)

Apple Watch
Apple Watch is as much about style as it is function, but would dropping support for older bands leave the fashion conscious Apple Watch crowd furious?

Apple media just loves itself a juicy rumour, and it always has done. I’m still waiting for the Apple Flat Panel TV, the Apple Car and the foldable iPhone, for a start. The rumours come, the rumours go.

Today’s rumour is, at least, a little bit more intriguing than most. According to Bloomberg reports, Apple is gearing up to make some major revisions to the Apple Watch. Not so much the hardware… well, except in a way.

According to Bloomberg’s Mark German, while this year’s Apple Watch refresh may be a little on the light side in terms of new features, for the Apple Watch’s 10th anniversary (which is either 2024 or 2025, depending on whether you want to count Apple “announcing” the Apple Watch or when it actually put them on sale), it’s planning a major design revision to the way Apple Watch bands work.

The existing band setup hasn’t changed since 2014/2015, aside from some minor size changes to the watches themselves. Indeed, as I’ve seen when testing, you can put larger bands on smaller Apple Watches and vice versa; it fits, though you do lose the clean lines of the design, because the actual attachment mechanism internally is the same size.

As per the rumour, Apple may look to introduce slimmer, magnetically attaching bands instead. That’s pretty much all that’s suggested for now. Remember, rumours are just rumours, and nothing’s official until Tim Cook’s slickly pre-produced video introduction starts to roll.

Alex’s Take

So, this one interests me on a couple of levels. There’s little doubt that Apple has made some pretty serious money from Apple Watch bands over the years. People don’t swap out their Apple Watch every year (or they shouldn’t, anyway), but bands are an easy style change, and Apple’s band swapping setup is one of the easiest to use across the entire smart wearables category.

So on the one hand, making it easier would seem to make a lot of sense.

However, that would presumably leave existing Apple Watch owners out in the cold for a bit, or at least in need to upgrade their watches to get new bands and styles and so on. People are resistant to change, especially in a category where they may have dropped serious coin on a variety of bands they’d hope they could carry through to new Apple Watch models.

There’s another curveball to consider here too. Apple’s almost certainly going to have to make a different change on its key IT product, quite possibly this year. To come into line with EU directives, it’s widely tipped that the iPhone will drop the Lightning connector in favour of USB-C.

This is one of those stories I’ve been covering for more than a decade with keen interest, because Apple hasn’t… let’s say, been keen on going down the EU mandated route, though annoyingly some of the earlier pieces I wrote around Apple’s attempts to get around this don’t seem to be online any more. More recent coverage still is, however.

Here I am chatting to James Valentine on ABC Radio about it in 2021.

The USB-C change isn’t Apple’s call — and one rumour does suggest it might simply opt to go full wireless to avoid it altogether — but it’s one that’s likely to draw the same kind of ire that it did back when it made the 30-pin Dock Connector to Lightning switch.

I’ve got to wonder if Apple’s got the stomach for two large connection changes in a relatively short period of time, because I could absolutely see some people grumbling about the iPhone change and then seeing a change in Apple Watch band support as something of a final straw.

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