The Apple community of observers has been in a quandary. How can Apple sell a luxury Apple Watch with expectations of enduring beauty and yet continue to upgrade its capabilities with new models without annoying the purchaser? One solution would be to make the just the inside electronics, the S1 assembly, replaceable.
When Apple announces a new product, they've been working on it in secret for years. As a result, the obvious questions we ask ourselves between the time the product is announced and when it ships have already been worked out by Apple. And so, it makes little sense to beat up on Apple for things that we dream up as potential problems until the product actually ships.
The Apple Watch Conundrum
One example of this is the recent discussion, here and there, about how Apple can make money with the Apple Watch. For example, when people buy an expensive, fashionable wristwatch, such as a Rolex, they expect it to last a long time. It might even be handed down as an heirloom. Currently, it might appear that an Apple Watch is a once in a lifetime purchase, and that's never good for makers of modern electronic devices.
This kind of product design doesn't seem to square with the way Apple comes out with a new iPhone each and every year. Technology changes so fast that it would be inconceivable that Apple would sell us an Apple Watch and then expect us to buy a new one a year later. That's especially true if a customer bought one of the more expensive gold models.
The way out of this dilemma is to design the Apple Watch so that the user gets to keep the case, possibly engraved, the crystal, and the wristband, but could have the guts swapped out when Apple releases a faster processor and/or new functionality in the silicon, and so on.
That is exactly what Lou Miranda thinks he's discovered by looking closely at Apple's images. In his article, "Is the Apple Watch S1 chip replaceable?" Mr. Miranda writes:
If you look at the image that Apple uses to demonstrate the Taptic sensor, it shows the internals of the watch. Look carefully at the left side of the watch’s guts, and you’ll see what looks to me like some sort of connector or latch mechanism.
Image credit: Lou Miranda and Apple
Of course, this is just speculation, and Mr. Miranda admits as much. But it does solve a difficult problem for Apple. It's also something that gives us great pause when we're tempted to think that the Apple Watch will be a failure because Apple hasn't thought of everything.
In fact, the notion that the insides would be replaceable is so obvious, once that path is explored, it seems obvious in hindsight. (Foresight?)
In turn, that brings up new questions, and Mr. Miranda nails all of them in his article. How often would Apple package and sell updates? How much would they cost? What happens to the old guts? Where is this upgrade done—in an Apple retail store?
Another advantage to this upgrade process, briefly alluded to in the Miranda article, is that this process would buy Apple considerable time to update the outer casing and other design elements, distinct from the electronics. At some point, say, five years down the road, Apple might come out with a new, slimmer design and a better battery technology. I think that's fine.
However, being forced to ask the customer to update the outer hardware as fast as the chip technology advances is an idea that works with an iPhone—but not with a watch. That's because iPhones are relatively new and rapidly evolving. Our expectations are not set. But wristwatch design elements have come to considerable maturity over the last 75 years. Upgradeable internals untie Apple's hands.
Another advantage is that, throughout this upgrade process, Apple maintains a cash flow. That's a win-win for Apple and the customer.
At this point, it's all just speculation, but I like the idea a lot. Making the Apple Watch internally upgradable solves all kinds of problems. I'm betting it's something Apple engineers started working on years ago and we're just now catching on.