When Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, announced the Apple Watch in September 2014, there was a great deal of industry buzz that lived on right until the wearable was released. However, there was a problem. The gadget did not live up to the hype. The User Interface was overcrowded and confusing, and many reviews gave it a low rating for being non-intuitive. Quite an irony for Apple. The hardware was also found to be incapable of handling the tasks it was supposed to.
Apple soon made significant improvements in the following version, the Apple Watch 2. The interface saw great improvement and there were new useful features such as GPS and waterproofing.
But there was still one pain in the neck. You had to be in the presence of your iPhone in order to use the paired Apple ‘smartwatch’ fully. This made it less of a must-have gadget. But all that is in the rear view mirror now. The Apple Watch 3 will be able to perform a good number of tasks without the need to be synced with your iPhone. That means you can leave your phone charging and still be able to send texts, use maps, and listen to music. All that is possible thanks to a new generation of device-network communication, the eSIM. It lets devices connect to mobile networks without the need for a SIM card.
What is an eSIM?
There are three types of SIM cards in use today: the Standard SIM; the Micro Sim, which is smaller; and the nano SIM, which is the smallest. eSIMs are a completely different ‘form factor’ or size but they can do all that an ordinary SIM can, and even more.
eSIMs are a new standard that is being pushed by GSMA which is the umbrella body of mobile network operators worldwide. Although the idea was introduced in 2013, they could well soon become the standard method of connecting to mobile network providers.
Instead of buying a SIM that has information embedded in it and linked to a specific network provider, an eSIMs allow you to rewrite the ( they call it ‘provisioning’ ) information at any time. This is not the first time the eSIM is being used in a smartwatch. It was first seen in Samsung’s Gear S2. With time, it will be a more common feature in the ‘Internet of Things’. The eSIM involves permanently embedding the SIM and the hardware that reads it in the device ( here, a smartphone ). It cannot be removed. There is no need to remove it anyway.
How will the eSIM change the game for the better?
The most obvious benefit is the eliminated need to always have the iPhone with you in order for the watch to function fully. This will definitely draw more consumers than the previous versions. But that is just the beginning. The watch is set to bring convenience right to your wrist in more ways than one.
- Switch between mobile operators with ease:
Changing to the mobile operator of your choice is not a push-button task currently. You need to walk to a store and get a SIM card (or follow the same process online) along with the mobile plan of your choice. The eSIM will get rid of all that as it will allow you to use the same ‘built in’ SIM chip for multiple mobile provider ‘profiles’. All you have to do is rewrite the information on the chip and the new network will be activated. No need to struggle with sim ejectors. A few taps on the screen will get you up and running on a new network. Obviously, that helps maintain the integrity of the waterproofing promise, too.
- There will be more space:
Every millimeter of real estate in a device is valuable. That is why the iPhone 7 was built without a 3.5 mm earphone jack. But tiny spaces become a lot more important in small devices such as smartwatches. Although the eSIM will give the watch all the functions of an ordinary SIM, it will leave much more room for more useful hardware. The watch might also just get thinner which is a win still.
- The eSIM will make things easier for travelers:
You won’t have to order a new SIM before traveling or restrict your phone usage to Wi-Fi only. You can just fly into any country and get any mobile provider of your choice right on your phone’s inbuilt chip.
Other possible features
There have not been any official announcements concerning the features of the Apple Watch 3. But there are always rumors. Word has it that the watch has made a few technological leaps.
- Micro-LED screen:
It has been rumored that the new Apple Watch will depart from the OLED screen and adapt a much sharper, brighter micro-LED display.
- Better Battery life:
The old OLED screen, although not really bright, was taxing on the watch’s battery. The micro-LED which could be part of the new iPhone lights up much brighter while being far more efficient. This will mean less frequent charging intervals.
- Smart Bands (modular straps):
It is possible that the new Apple Watch might borrow some space from the straps. Apple already holds a patent for straps that can accommodate a battery and other components. If they use that idea and it’s implemented in the watch, the smart bands might be used to display notifications and other pieces of information.
The smart bands will do more than just display notifications. They will also hold some of the watch’s components, leaving room for such features as a camera. It is not clear whether the camera will be able to take both stills and video.
- Health Sensors:
The previous versions of the watch had a few health sensors such as a heart rate monitor. But these only offered standard functionality. The watch’s modular bands are expected to hold a lot more sensors.
The release date has not been announced for the new watch. And since Apple does not have any set release pattern for its smartwatch, there is much room for speculation. It is possible for the release date to be announced in September at the same time as the iPhone is released. There is a strong case for the date being the end of the year or April 2018 since the original watch was launched in April 2015.
Details of the original Apple Watch and its progress since launch are covered here: https://www.imore.com/whats-difference-between-apple-watch-series-0-series-1-and-series-2
One of the few reliable sources on the eSIM is the GSMA: https://www.gsma.com/rsp/
And industry rumors for Apple products are often covered best by these guys: http://www.macworld.co.uk/feature/apple/apple-watch-3-latest-rumours-release-date-price-features-design-3647016/