We have it on the iPhone. Is the Apple Watch next?
There is a small, but growing, sentiment that the Apple Watch should come with 5G connectivity. Currently, it doesn’t, and there are no credible rumors to suggest that 5G is coming any time soon.
So, why doesn’t the Apple Watch have 5G? And does it really need 5G? The answers are perhaps more nuanced than you might think.
The Case for the Apple Watch 5G
According to Apple’s spec sheet, the latest Apple Watch cellular model supports LTE and UMTS connections. It works with 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi (2.4GHz and 5GHz), and uses Bluetooth 5.3.
So, it’s not slow, but at the same time, it’s not 5G.
5G is undoubtedly the next big step for cellular communications. And although it took a little longer than many thought to reach it’s potential, Apple introduced 5G to the iPhone lineup in 2020 and continues to add it to iPhones today. Given how closely the iPhone and the Apple Watch operate, 5G would make a lot of sense in the Apple Watch.
Adding 5G to the Apple Watch would also help future-proof a wearable device that people don’t replace all that often. I wear an Apple Watch Series 6 and I don’t intend to replace it any time soon. The same can be said for lots of Apple Watch owners. Upgrading the device to 5G gives the Apple Watch more functionality for a longer period of time.
A 5G radio would make the Apple Watch faster at performing network related tasks. That means Siri and other data requests could be accelerated with the use of a 5G connection. Anything that improves Siri is a win in my book, but I know that 5G is only part of that equation.
Then there is the issue of connectivity. 4G/LTE networks can get overloaded with too many devices, like at a concert or a sporting event. 5G is designed to handle that congestion more efficiently, so you will almost always be able to make a phone call or send a text on your Apple Watch when you are connected to a 5G network.
The Case Against the Apple Watch 5G
Let’s face it. If Apple thought it could do a 5G Apple Watch, and do it well, we would have one by now. Yet, the Apple Watch 5G does not exist, so there must be a good reason for that. As it happens, there are several good reasons for that.
One of the primary reasons is battery life. A power hungry 5G connection would likely eat up more of your Apple Watch battery than you would like. That would mean Apple wouldn’t be able to claim that all-day battery life that it likes to put in all its marketing materials.
Internal temperature is another consideration. More power equates to more heat. The Apple Watch is built with a small footprint, where there really is no way (with the current design) to deal with the extra heat that a 5G chip could generate. Thermal corners anyone?
Then there is the issue of coverage. Apple made a lot of fanfare when it launched the first 5G iPhone, but when it comes to availability, LTE is still much more prevalent. 5G may have launched with a bang, but it has taken several years to make any real impact, and many parts of the USA are still without 5G coverage.
And would the Apple Watch actually benefit all that much from the inclusion of 5G? I mean, you are not downloading large files or streaming movies with your Apple Watch. So, do you really need it? Would you really notice the difference? Most of the time, probably not.
Personally, I’m in no rush to see 5G on an Apple Watch. The pros are still far outweighed by the cons. If I think about the number of things that a 5G watch could do that the 4G watch cannot, it is an extremely short list.
5G will come to the Apple Watch eventually. Of that I have no doubt. But unless Apple rethinks the core functions and capabilities of an Apple Watch, 5G will just be another line on the spec sheet.
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