Apple's next watch may reduce reliance on iPhone

While the Apple Watch remains a small part of Apple's overall revenue, chief executive Tim Cook said last week it's the ...
BECK DIEFENBACH/REUTERS

While the Apple Watch remains a small part of Apple's overall revenue, chief executive Tim Cook said last week it's the best-selling smartwatch "by a very wide margin".

Apple is planning to release a version of its smartwatch later this year that can connect directly to cellular networks, a move designed to reduce the device's reliance on the iPhone, people familiar with the matter said.

Currently, Apple requires its smartwatch to be connected wirelessly to an iPhone to stream music, download directions in maps, and send messages while on the go.

Equipped with 4G chips, at least some new Apple Watch models, planned for release by the end of the year, will be able to conduct many tasks without an iPhone in range, the people said.

For example, a user would be able to download new songs and use apps and leave their smartphone at home.

READ MORE: Apple Watch: Should you buy one?

Apple is already in talks with carriers in the US and Europe about offering the cellular version, the people added.

Making the Apple Watch more of a standalone device may boost sales of the product.

"It would be a game changer," said Gene Munster, co-founder of Loup Ventures and a long-time Apple analyst.

"If they could deliver an experience that isn't tethered to an iPhone, it could kick start a new direction for the business." Still, he's concerned about battery life in such a device.

Last year, Apple took a step toward making the Apple Watch a more independent device by selling some new models with a GPS chip.

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This allows the device to accurately track distance travelled by wearers when they leave their iPhones behind on walks or runs.

The company had planned to release a 4G model last year, but chose to hold off due to battery life issues, Bloomberg News reported at the time.

Cramming 4G into a device as small as a watch remains a challenge, but Apple has been exploring ways to improve battery life, people familiar with the company's work said.

 - The Washington Post

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