What if the Apple Watch is upgradable?

Apple Watch S1 Replaceable

Yes, this is a post about an as of yet unreleased product but there’s something that has played on my mind with regards the Apple Watch; Technology moves so quickly that devices become obsolete a lot quicker than jewellery. 

All you have to do is look at the marketing effort Apple are putting behind the Apple Watch to see that this is being aimed squarely at a market that care as much about how something looks as well as what it does. There’s going to be three versions, the Sports version in Aluminium, the regular Watch in Stainless Steel and the Edition in 14 carat Gold. As of yet, we have no finalised pricing on any of these, but its safe to say we’re looking at a starting price for the sport at approximately £250 and the regular Watch at £350 and who knows for the Edition, but given the materials, north of £800 is a fair shout.

So, given that the Apple Watch is being positioned as a technically advanced piece of designer jewellery that has interchangeable straps, just like a regular watch, this has lead me to consider one other thing that you can do with most other expensive watches; you can remove the movement.

The Apple Watch does not have a movement, it has the S1. To use Apple’s own wording, the S1 is ‘an entire computer system on a single chip which is then completely encapsulated in resin to protect the electronics from the elements, impact, and wear.’. The S1 is the movement and given some of the images shown in the preview video, the layering of the device’s internals may make it’s removal possible.

  1. Top layer – screen
  2. Second layer – Haptic Engine and battery
  3. third layer – S1
  4. fourth layer – ceramic back

It would make sense that given that the back of the device uses inductive charging that’s connected via magnets and has the instruments for heart-rate peering through it, it will be locked in place. That means the screen will be the part that would release. With the screen released, there appears to be a couple of screws keeping the haptic engine and battery assembly in place. Once removed, the S1 ‘movement’ could be removed and perhaps even upgraded.

Let’s face it, at some point, one will need repaired or refurbished, so Apple will have considered this. As you remove the front of the device, removing and replacing the battery will be a standard practice and given that there is in theory, no internally exposed connectors or circuitry (we can’t see any in the videos and everything seems to have a seal) removing the S1 as an encased component would be easy, as it’s smaller than the screen area.

This is all blind speculation at the moment with a dash of wishful thinking. That said, it’s not without some logical deductions:

  • The current marketing push as mentioned above
  • The fact that watches are bought to be kept. Apple even comment on how personal it is. An expensive and personal thing like this is something to be kept and like a good watch, you’d have it serviced / battery replaced to keep it going
  • The S1 seems to be designed as a modern Movement
  • A propitiatory, possibly also digitally locked magnetic locking mechanism means people can’t tamper with the device
  • Selling a shell that people would pay to upgrade every two years keeps people in the ecosystem and means that Apple can focus on new form factors as future versions (read: the inevitable circular one and the promise from the patents of flexible devices)

Again, it’s all conjecture at this point, but from the sounds coming from the rumour mill, we may not have that long to wait to find out.

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