Garmin has a pretty good strong hold of the outdoor smartwatch market with its broad range of wearable devices aimed at cycling, running, and other adventurous sports. However, it looks like Apple is about to make a move into the sports smartwatch market, as reported by Pocket-Lint (opens in new tab), which is likely to cause a massive shake-up in the sector if true.
As the rumor mill starts to spin in the build-up to Apple's September event, which is usually when it announces most of its hardware, there are reports that the tech giant will release three new watches. It's a given that we will see the release of a Series 8 Apple Watch and considering we didn't see an update to the cheaper SE model, that's likely to get a refresh too.
That leaves a final mystery model and there is a lot of speculation that it's going to be a rugged sports version aimed at those who do sports and spend time outdoors. Much of the speculation is down to new features in Watch OS9 which was announced earlier in the month.
Many of the new OS9 software updates seem to be focused on sports and exercise. Apple has introduced new workout views, automatic heart rate zones, and customizable workouts. There are also enhanced workout summaries as well. There are a few other features too although they look like they may only be available for running.
There is also talk about a new watch form factor and in Apple's ecosystem products usually borrow tech and aesthetics from each other. The iPhone 13 got a new flat edge form which was said to be more durable so there is a chance this will be carried over to the Series 8 Watch. Obviously, a rugged version of the Apple Watch will need a new form factor regardless, but it's a good sign that the new watch might already be getting a boost in structural durability.
Apple isn't shy when it comes to branching out into new tech and often quickly re-writes the script of what's possible. The release of the iPod was huge, only to later be dwarfed by the effects that the iPhone which arguably changed the way we interact with tech. We doubt Apple's entry into the rugged smartwatch category will trouble the best MTB GPS computers, but it's certainly going to shake up sports smartwatches.
If Apple does enter the rugged outdoor smartwatch market then there could be the possibility of some really interesting integration between watch and smartphone in the future. Here are some thoughts on features and apps we would like to see.
A clean outdoors aesthetic
It can't just be us that are frustrated that outdoor sports watches always seem to have a very tactical look. If Apple does do a rugged version of its watch, it's probably a safe bet that it will still have a very clean and sophisticated aesthetic that won't look out of place when worn day to day.
More sensors for better training
Garmin already has a bunch of sensors that can measure things like heart rate and PulseOx which then tells you fatigue levels, stress, and other metrics. While there is no confirmation yet, there are reports that Apple has been working on advanced features like blood glucose monitoring and blood pressure measurements. There has been no word as to when this tech will become available, but if this does become available it will offer riders far more in-depth data so they can train more efficiently and effectively.
Deeper Strava integration with truly live segments
Not everyone is as addicted to Strava as we are, but if you are Apple's focus on sports and fitness is undoubtedly going to bring with it loads of new Starva feature opportunities. Top of our list are proper live segments which can be selected mid-activity and then ridden.
More enriched Trailforks navigation
Trailforks is an app that helps you to find mountain biking trails and will also be quick to utilize the increasing Apple watch potential. Garmin have integrated Trailforks routes into their new Edge GPS bike computers, but we see the trail directory become an activity recorder as well?
Apps to make it easier to find friends out on the trail
Whether you are late to the ride and trying to catch up with your riding buddies or have had an accident and need assistance, Apple's device ecosystem should make this easier. Apple already has a fall detection feature so it could be easily brought into the sports realm and could even utilize the watch sensors to provide live health stats to the first responders on their way to get you.
Bikes are becoming ever more connected with electronics which means app integration to control these components is also becoming more common. Electronic suspensions like SRAM Flight Attendant and Fox Live Valve, tire pressure sensors, and SRAM AXS gearing already have apps that could be brought to the watch. That opens up the possibility for on-the-fly remote suspension and gearing adjustments.
When will the Apple Watch 8 Rugged Edition be released?
If the rumors are true and Apple does release a Watch Series 8 rugged edition it will be at the September event. As for pricing, all we know is it's likely to be expensive considering the current Apple Watch 7 will set you back $399 / £369. It certainly won't be any cheaper than the Apple Watch 8 either so it's maybe worth starting to save up now.