- Apple is set to launch a new Pro-tier watch this fall, according to credible rumors.
- A specialized sports watch is not in Apple’s usual MO.
- All Apple Watches are already sports watches.
Starting this fall, your choices of Apple Watch models will double. The lone model available today will be joined by a rugged version, which will be called the Apple Watch Pro. Yes, "Pro."
Apple has long differentiated its lineups by offering more expensive pro-labeled versions. Sometimes these are truly professional machines, like the Mac Pro or the current 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro. Other times the Pro name seems to be there just so Apple can charge a bit more for nicer features (all iPhone Pro models) or to convince corporate buyers that a computer is for them (the current, super disappointing 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro). According to an insider report, the Apple Watch Pro will be a bit of both.
"Multi-sport and adventure watches [are] already [marketed] to professional athletes and experts in the field of aviation and elsewhere. However, the Pro Apple Watch doesn't fall into this category because it will more than likely be marketed to a wide range of customers. But as with their MacBook Pro, some customers will believe it's significantly different from the regular version and purchase one regardless," marketing expert Jerry Han told Lifewire via email.
The Watch Pro will, according to serial Apple rumormonger Mark Gurman, be aimed at demanding athletes. It will have a larger, tougher display, longer battery life, and be made of something other than aluminum—Gurman speculates titanium—which Apple has used for watches before, but it could also be stainless steel. Features-wise, the Pro model may get improved tracking for hiking and swimming. This points to better sensors inside the device.
Most of the speculation so far has been that this will be a sports-focused watch, with a rugged appearance in line with Casio’s G-Shock range and the like. But that seems a little too niche for Apple. And remember, right now, all Apple Watches are already sports watches.
Rugged? Not So Fast
Much more likely is that Apple will do what it always does—make a fancier version of the same thing, and charge more.
"[The Watch Pro will be] slightly bigger, and sure, more rugged, but only insofar as all new models are more rugged," Apple Watch super-user, fitness expert, and fitness app designer Graham Bower told Lifewire via direct message. "This will be a premium watch competing with low-end luxury Swiss watches."
If that sounds familiar, it's because it is, kind of. The Apple Watch Edition, which launched alongside the original Apple Watch, is a premium model, but one only differentiated by case material. You could buy an 18k gold version for up to $17,000, but it was exactly the same smartwatch under that fancy cover. And that was a problem because, after a few years, that gold watch would turn into a gold paperweight, while new watches costing a fraction of the price would continue to add new features.
The Apple Watch Edition doesn't really fit into Apple's way of doing things, which is to differentiate the Pro models primarily by improved functionality and features. And, in fact, even the source of the rugged watch rumor supports this theory:
"In the case of the Pro products, except the earbuds, Apple differentiates with better performance and screens, plus, of course, a higher price," writes Gurman in his Switched On newsletter.
The iPhone Pro models are a great example of this. They use the same chip as the regular iPhone but have a better screen with a variable refresh rate for smoother animation and also lower power drain, and better cameras. Some of these features end up in lesser models after a few years.
As with their MacBook Pro, some customers will believe it’s significantly different from the regular version and purchase one regardless.
The iPad lineup is the same. It’s a strategy that works well, especially at Apple’s wild market volumes. If it wants to introduce a fancy new experimental camera to the iPhone, then it has to be able to find somebody to manufacture that new widget in its tens of millions, all with perfect tolerances and reliability.
If you have a more expensive Pro version, which sells fewer units, you can put the fancy part in that, and in the future, when it becomes cheaper and easier to manufacture, drop it into the basic model.
So, don’t hold your breath for a ruggedized sports watch. But don’t be surprised if Apple launches two watches this fall. It’s straight out of Apple’s strategy playbook and long overdue.