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Here's what Apple's planning for 2016

Ryan Faas | Jan. 4, 2016
Coming in the new year: Apple Watch 2, new iPhones (of course), and expanded Apple Pay

iPad home screen
Michael deAgonia The iPad Pro.

For Apple, as 2015 draws to a close, it's natural to look back at what the company did this past year with an eye on what that means for 2016. The product innovations include Apple's first wearable, the Apple Watch; the redesigned single-port, super-slim MacBook that incorporates Force Touch; the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus that offer 3D Touch (and other innovations like Live Photos); and, of course, the introduction of the iPad Pro. The company also gave its Apple TV set-top box its first overhaul in years, adding an App Store all its own for the first time. And Apple banked on its 2014 partnership with IBM to develop a range of additional MobileFirst iOS apps covering 65 professions across 14 industries.

All in all, that's not-very-shabby set of accomplishments.

So, what's ahead in 2016?

Apple Watch
The Apple Watch

Apple Watch 2 (and watchOS 3)

Apple's first major revelation of 2016 is likely to be a second-generation Apple Watch, accompanied by an update to watchOS. Although there's ample speculation on new features Apple could pack into the updated smartwatch -- features like a FaceTime camera or even 3D Touch capabilities -- I'd put money on Apple refining the existing features rather than cramming everything but the kitchen sink into the watch.

Apple seems committed to only building functionality that makes sense on the wrist. For that reason, expect to see a focus on the basics like battery life and app performance. Apple might even go further in allowing the Watch to operate in a less tethered state than the original, but I'd expect this to be in the form of improved Wi-Fi capabilities and support for a greater range of Bluetooth accessories rather than in slapping a carrier SIM card inside.

Although Apple could add more health-tracking capabilities, this seems unlikely given speculation that Apple would aim to do that in a more medically-oriented device. Sticking with basic fitness allows Apple to provide useful tracking without needing to meet the regulatory hurdles associated with medical devices.

That said, I do hope that the accompanying update to watchOS expands on some of the built-in tracking capabilities. Apple should be able to expand tracking goals to allow users to set preferred primary metrics outside the somewhat vague calorie-based movement and even vaguer exercise designations. Setting metrics such as distance or step count as primary goals for Apple's ring interface would be a welcome option and help it better compete with rival dedicated trackers.

I also expect Apple to make the forthcoming watchOS update available to first-generation watches. Although some of Apple's refinements will come from hardware advances, the company should be able to support new features and even performance boosts on existing models as well.

 

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