Apple Inc. is considering launching an Apple Watch with a rugged case aimed at athletes, hikers and others who use the device in more extreme environments, said people familiar with the matter.
The Cupertino, California-based tech giant has spoken internally about introducing such a Watch variant later in 2021 or at the earliest 2022, the people said, asking not to be identified while discussing private matters.
In any case, this is the second time Apple has considered a rugged smartwatch. After Launching the first version of the Apple Watch in 2015, the company weighed in on a new model to better appeal to extreme athletes. The current version is still popular with runners, hikers, and swimmers, and Apple has added several sports and activity tracking features through the annual update cycle. However, Casio Computer Co. and other watchmakers have seen strong sales of more robust product designs with added protection.
If Apple continues this time around, the rugged version would be an additional model, similar to how Apple offers a cheaper option, the Apple Watch SE and special editions under the Nike Inc. brand. and Hermes International. Sometimes referred to as the “Explorer Edition” in Apple, the product is said to have the same functionality as a standard Apple Watch, but with added impact-resistance and protection in the style of Casio’s G-Shock watches.
Read more about Casio’s G-Shock line here.
The latest Apple Watch models are already water resistant to 50 meters – on the high side for most smartwatches. But Apple could make a new device “more robust” by giving it a rubberized exterior that would be useful for environments where today’s aluminum, titanium, and stainless steel enclosures are susceptible to damage.
Development of the new Apple Watch variant could eventually be canceled or delayed, the people familiar with the matter said. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.
Apple is also working on new swim tracking features for the Apple Watch. The company typically launches new models in September. Last year, it introduced the cheaper Apple Watch SE and added a faster processor and blood oxygen sensor to the Apple Watch Series 6.
The Apple Watch has become one of Apple’s flagship products, although the company does not disclose how much revenue it brings. The device is part of the company’s wearables, home and accessories segment, which is in its last fiscal year. That made it the most successful product category from Apple, next to the iPhone. According to Apple, Apple controlled 40% of the smartwatch market in the last quarter of 2020 Counterpoint investigation.