It May be Awhile Longer Before Apple Watch Can Divorce from iPhone

ECG app on Apple Watch Series 4

Many an Apple customer, and maybe even Apple itself, dreams of making the Apple Watch independent of the iPhone someday. But it won’t happen soon.

ECG app on Apple Watch Series 4
Apple Watch won’t be independent of iPhone any time soon.

Of course the obvious motivation is to be able to sell Apple Watches to customers who don’t have an iPhone. The potential market would be larger, but that time still seems far away to me.

I’ve been watching the tech specs for the Apple Watch closely to understand how far the S4 chip has advanced. It’s called a Silicon in Package, SIP, and Apple says it’s “the only product in the world that runs completely on a SiP.” Even so, it’s only claimed to be 2x faster than the S3 before it, and my take is that this is an evolutionary update rather than an revolutionary advance.

The battery may be a little bit bigger to support this extra processing power, but it’s still only sufficient for “all day” battery life, as before. What this tells me is that Apple is still a long way from the miniaturization technology to put everything on board the Apple Watch that it might need to become independent of the iPhone that, today, does all the heavy lifting.

Currently, the iPhone has the power, storage and security to store a vast history of fitnes and health data. That data can be exported and analyzed at length. I haven’t seen anything to suggest that the Apple Watch is ready to become that archive. Or that its small display can effectively support a management and settings GUI that would be pleasing.

What About Android Phones?

As an aside, one might ponder whether Apple could increase the addressable Apple Watch market by making it work with Andoid smartphones. After all, some may appeal to the time when Apple replaced the FireWire port on early iPods with USB so that PC users could also sync music. iPod sales increased dramatically. But that reasoning doesn’t apply here.

It may be possible, in principle, technically, but there’s a problem. My take is that even the most recent Android phones don’t have the security architecture to protect personal health data to Apple’s satisfaction. And can you imagine the terrible message this would send to customers?

We’re Apple. We make the most secure smartphones on the planet. That’s our forte and our advantage. But, hey, we think it’s fine for you to put reams of highly confidential, sensitive medical data on an Android smartphone, drawn from your Apple Watch. It’ll be great, and we’ll make a lot more money at your expense.

Not going to happen.

Technical Breakthroughs

I coud be that, someday, the hardware architecture of this Apple Watch/iPhone duo will change.

[Current Products Give Hints About Apple’s Future]

Perhaps we’ll get to the point where the Apple Watch is completely managed via iCloud with a cloud-based management GUI. Or long term, breakthrough advances might allow the Apple Watch to totally replace the iPhone. But for now, and the next few years, we’ll just have to live with an Apple Watch that requires a companion iPhone.

It’s not really that bad—until you update your iPhone or Apple Watch. That’s when the minor management issues make one long for device independence. My bet, however is that technical advances will make this yearning for device independence OBE: Overcome by Events.

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