What’s in store for Apple Watch Series 4? [Wish List]

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What cool new features are hidden inside that slimmer Apple Watch Series 4 frame? [Mockup]
What cool new features will be hidden inside that slimmer Series 4 frame?
Photo illustration: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

In just a few weeks, Apple looks set to unveil the biggest upgrade yet to its popular wearable.
While the external appearance of Apple Watch has not changed much since its launch, recent leaks suggest we can expect a new form factor with a larger screen when Apple Watch Series 4 lands.

In the Photoshop mockup above, I’ve shown how Apple’s next watch might look if it slimmed down and added a larger screen (as the rumormongers predict). That would be pretty cool, but there are plenty of other potential upgrades I’m excited about.

Here’s my top 10 wish list for Apple Watch Series 4 new features.

Apple Watch Series 4 wish list

Previous Apple Watch updates focused on adding new features like GPS and LTE. My Apple Watch Series 4 wish list is a combination of hardware and software tweaks that could take the wearable to the next level.

1. Always-on display

My biggest gripe with Apple Watch is having to wait for the screen to turn on every time I raise my wrist. The lag is only a fraction of a second, but it’s still irritating — especially during a workout. When you’re running or cycling you need to focus on the road ahead. Looking at your watch while you wait for it to wake up can be dangerous. And when you’re swimming, the screen stays permanently asleep, because your wrist is constantly raised.

Some Android smartphones already boast always-on AMOLED displays. But this feature is not even particularly useful on a phone. It would be way more cool on a smartwatch. I’m hoping Apple finds a way to cram this power-hungry feature onto our wrists this fall.

2. More-accurate workout maps

Thanks to the Apple Watch’s built-in GPS and accelerometer, the Workout app provides remarkably accurate distance estimates. In fact, it’s one of the most accurate I’ve tested. However, the route maps are not so great, because Apple relies on a lot of smoothing to render them.

This looks OK if you view the map zoomed out. But when you zoom in, it does not look that good. I’ve found that cheaper watches, like the TomTom Runner 2, provide more accurate zoomed-in details. I’m hoping Cupertino finds a way to improve this in Series 4.

Before and after: how Apple Watch Series 4 could shape up
Before and after: How Apple Watch Series 4 could shape up.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

3. Thinner

The first time I set eyes on an Apple Watch, I remember my initial reaction was that it looked way too thick. It created an unsightly bulge on my wrist that made it impossible to button up my shirt cuff. But I gradually got used to its appearance (plus, I’m so scruffy that I rarely wear dress shirts anyway).

I suspect that over time, when we look back at the original Apple Watch, we’ll see it for what it is: a bit on the plump side. That’s often the way with gadgets. The original iPhone now looks hopelessly outmoded, but back in the day it was the business.

So even though the thickness of Apple Watch doesn’t bother me that much, I think it’s about time it went on a diet.

4. Compass

I’m surprised more people don’t grumble about the absence of a compass on Apple Watch. Whenever I emerge from a subway station in an unfamiliar part of town, I always get out my iPhone to find my bearings.

It’s all very well for Apple Watch to tell you when to turn left or right by tapping your wrist. But when it does not know what direction you are facing, it’s not a very reliable guide.

I’m sure there are plenty of technical challenges to putting a compass in Apple Watch. Not least is that it’s surrounded by magnets (in the strap and the charger). Still, adding a compass to Apple Watch Series 4 would be a big step the right direction.

5. Longer battery life

I have a charger on my bedside table, and I’m in the habit of charging my Apple Watch every night. I ran a marathon with my Apple Watch, and the battery lasted the entire race without even using Power Reserve mode. So the battery life of my Apple Watch has never really bothered me.

Why, therefore, am I including the battery on this list? Because, while a little more battery life would not be much use to me, a lot more would be very cool. And I really do mean a lot. I’d like enough extra battery life so I could go for a weekend break and leave my charger at home. I realize it’s pretty unrealistic to expect a thinner watch and an always-on display and longer battery life. But hey, this is a wish list.

6. More controls on the side of the watch

The Apple Watch touchscreen is disabled in waterproof mode, so how do you finish your workout?
The touchscreen is disabled when you get sweaty or go swimming with Apple Watch.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

The touchscreen on Apple Watch is great most of the time, but it has its limits. The biggest problem I have with it is that it doesn’t work in Water Lock mode. Which means you can’t use it when you get sweaty or go swimming.

I’d like Apple to solve this by adding more controls to the side of the watch.

A new “soft key” on the left-hand side would help. That’s a kind of button that performs different functions depending on what is displayed on the screen (a bit like the buttons on an ATM machine). Pressing the soft key could bring up additional options you scroll through and select with the Digital Crown, even in Water Lock mode.

On the touchscreen, I find 3D Touch feels a little slow and clunky. But I think it would feel more natural on the Side Button and Digital Crown, while providing additional controls that could work in Water Lock mode.

7. LTE data roaming

Thanks to my jet-set lifestyle, I spend a lot of time abroad, which means I rely heavily on international data roaming. That works fine on my iPhone, but not on my Series 3 Apple Watch. This means I rarely get the benefit of the watch’s built-in LTE. Ideally, I’m hoping Apple finds a way to enable data roaming with Apple Watch Series 4.

But if that’s not possible, a built-in Apple SIM would be cool. Similar to the one built into most iPads, it would enable me to purchase data straight from my wrist when I’m traveling overseas.

Buying an LTE data plan from your wrist could be this easy
A built-in Apple SIM in Series 4 could enable you to buy data plans right from your wrist.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

8. USB-C chargers

Rumor has it that this year’s iPhone chargers will abandon old-fashioned USB in favor of USB-C. I really hope this is true. It’s so tiresome not being able to plug my iPhone into my MacBook Pro to charge it. It means when I travel, I must take three chargers with me — one for my MacBook, one for my iPhone and one for my Apple Watch.

I’m hoping that Apple Watch is included in the big USB-C switchover, so the charging cable that comes with Series 4 watches can plug straight into the side of my MacBook Pro without a dongle.

9. A Taptic Engine with more oomph!

When I’m out on a run and all my bits are jiggling around, I often don’t feel the haptic notifications that gently tap against my wrist. They are just too subtle.

I like the way the Workout app gives you a tap every time you complete a mile, but I rarely notice it. That’s a shame, but not the end of the world. What’s more frustrating is that, now that Apple Watch comes with built-in LTE, I’d like to know when I get a notification while I’m out on a run. However, I almost always miss them.

Maybe my wrists are turning numb with old age. But I want a more powerful Taptic Engine so my wrist will physically quake every time someone likes my latest Instagram selfie.

10. Camera

OK, so this one may sound more geeky than a pocket protector, but hear me out.

A front-facing camera on Apple Watch could enable Face ID, and this would be awesome, especially for using Apple Pay. Every morning when I reach the ticket barrier on the London Underground, I double-tap my side button expecting to launch Apple Pay, only to be confronted instead with the PIN screen. It would be so cool if it just unlocked automatically when I looked at it, like my iPhone X.

And then there’s FaceTime. I’ve no idea if it makes sense for me to have video chats with my wrist, but it would be so Dick Tracy, I really want to give it a try.

Apple engineers will be rolling their eyes right now

So that’s my wish list. I realize some of these are a bit out there — especially that last one. And some are a bit contradictory: Apple can make a thinner watch, or a longer battery life, but probably not both. So I’m sure if any Apple engineers are reading this, they are probably groaning and rolling their eyes right now. But a guy can dream.

If just one or two of my wishes are granted by the folks in Cupertino next month, I’ll be a happy shopper — and another Apple Watch will be added to my growing collection.

What do you guys think? Are there any obvious features I’ve forgotten?