IoT Ecosystem Blog

Apple's watchOS 4 Obsesses on Siri & Fitness. LTE Support Conspicuously Absent.

by Cliff Raskind | Jun 09, 2017

At WWDC this week Apple made public the details of watchOS 4. Starting in fall 2017 the new platform will go public, powering all Apple Watches shipped. With full backward compatibility watchOS 4 will also be an upgrade option for all previous versions of Apple's industry leading wearable, provided it is connected to an iPhone 6 or newer running iOS 11. Drawing applause from WWDC attendees, WatchKit developers can access watchOS 4 in beta without delay.

The latest OS is a relatively ‘light’ release that offers Apple Watch wearers refreshed eye candy in the form of some nicely polished Pixar and kaleidoscope animations (below). More importantly, watchOS4 smartly fixates on critical areas such as fitness and Siri. Wellness and voice assistants are quickly emerging as key competitive bases in wearables, and beyond.


Quite interestingly, 4G support is nowhere to be found in watchOS 4. Foregoing LTE tells me that Apple is unconvinced that phone autonomy via 4G is ready for prime time in their iconic category-defining product, and points to a belief that bulkier 3G/4G variants from competitors will not resonate with buyers in their current form.

To an extent, holding off on phone independence via 4G also affords Apple some protection of the core "crown jewels" revenue streams. Namely, the coveted iPhone upgrade cycle and many lucrative services optimized for the iPhone. The reality is that over time, the potential for iPhone cannibalization exists as cellular-enabled Apple Watches that offer limited phone functionality, but are far less ideal services monetization devices, come to be viewed as an alternative to the iPhone. This will first be true when it comes to buyers deciding to either upgrade their iPhone or splurge on an Apple Watch. In the long run 4G/5G wearables like smartwatches and smartglasses will become realistic alternatives to smartphones for many core functions.

Yes, better services do require more capable hardware, but better tech specs are not the only reason that many iPhone 5 users will need to upgrade to a more capable iPhone in order to buy an Apple Watch next fall, or upgrade to watchOS 4 in order to to get their Buzz Lightyear fix. Make no mistake, no one, but no one, is better than Apple at expertly milking revenues via carefully orchestrated software strategies that transcend the metal.

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