Apple Inc. is considering launching an Apple Watch with a rugged casing aimed at athletes, hikers and others who use the device in more extreme environments, reports said.
The Cupertino, California-based technology giant has internally discussed introducing such a Watch variation later in 2021 or 2022 at the earliest, said the people.
This is at least the second time Apple has mulled a rugged smartwatch. After launching the first version of the Apple Watch in 2015, the company weighed a new model to better appeal to extreme sports athletes. The current version is still popular with runners, hikers, and swimmers, and Apple added several sports and activity-tracking features via its annual update cycle. However, Casio Computer and other watchmakers have seen strong sales from sturdier product designs with extra protection.
If Apple goes ahead this time, the rugged version would be an additional model similar to how Apple offers a lower-cost option called the Apple Watch SE and special editions co-branded with Nike Inc. and Hermes International. Sometimes dubbed the “Explorer Edition” inside Apple, the product would have the same functionality as a standard Apple Watch but with extra impact-resistance and protection in the vein of Casio’s G-Shock watches.
The latest Apple Watch models are already water-resistant to 50 meters — at the high end for most smartwatches. But Apple could make a new device more “rugged” by giving it a rubberised exterior that would be useful for environments where the current aluminum, titanium and stainless steel cases might be prone to damage.
Development of the new Apple Watch variation could ultimately be cancelled or delayed, the people familiar the matter said.
Apple is also working on new swim tracking features for the Apple Watch. The company typically launches new models in September. Last year, it rolled out the lower-cost Apple Watch SE and added a faster processor and blood oxygen sensor with the Apple Watch Series 6.
The Apple Watch has become one of Apple’s most important products, though the company does not disclose how much revenue it brings in. The device is part of the company’s wearables, home and accessories segment, which generated sales of more than $30 billion in its last fiscal year. That made it Apple’s most successful product category besides the iPhone. Apple had 40% of the smartwatch market in the final quarter of 2020, according to Counterpoint research.