Apple’s Wearables Will ‘Take Center Stage’ in 2024

AirPods Pro on desk with Apple Watch, iPad, and Keyboard Credit: Yasar Turanli / Shutterstock
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Relatively speaking, 2023 has been a quiet year for Apple product releases. Sure, we got the usual annual iPhone and Apple Watch releases and some refreshed Macs, but those occur with such regularity that it would have been more unusual if these products hadn’t shown up.

What we didn’t get were any new iPads. Think about that for a moment… This is the first year since the iPad was introduced over 13 years ago that Apple didn’t have a single new iPad model to show us.

Thankfully, several reports suggest that Apple has some exciting things in store for the iPad in 2024, and there’s a good chance we’ll see a product-packed March event that will herald a larger iPad Air and a new M3-powered MacBook Air lineup.

However, the real focus in 2024 will be Apple’s wearables, which, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, will “take center stage.”

Of course, we already know Apple’s revolutionary Vision Pro headset is expected to land early next year. Certainly by March, although some more recent reports suggest the first units may be ready to go on sale by the end of January, even if stock is initially a bit tight.

While the Vision Pro was arguably Apple’s most prominent announcement of 2023, it has yet to become an actual product that people can put their hands on (well, except for a few privileged developers who are required to effectively guard it with their lives). That will change early next year, and Gurman says it will usher in a whole new era of wearables for the company, from new AirPods to the so-called “Apple Watch X” to mark the smartwatch’s tenth anniversary.

But it will be the company’s wearables business — including the upcoming Vision Pro, AirPods and Apple Watch — that take center stage. The Vision Pro marks a new category for Apple, while the earbuds and smartwatch are poised to get some of their biggest upgrades ever.

Mark Gurman

Gurman shares the predictions in his latest Power On newsletter, where he adds that this will mark an opportunity for Apple to turn things around in these product categories, where sales have been declining since the burst of consumer spending during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ‘Apple Watch X’

The Apple Watch Series 9 marked a small but significant update in Apple’s smartwatch lineup, thanks to its more powerful S9 chip that ushered in a big leap in performance. Such a move is likely a step toward the mythic “Apple Watch X,” but it was the only meaningful improvement in this year’s watch, which retains the same physical design as its predecessor and gains no new health sensors.

In fact, the Apple Watch arguably hasn’t gained any significant health sensors since blood oxygen monitoring came to the Apple Watch Series 6 in 2020. Perhaps ironically, this is the improvement that’s gotten the Apple Watch banned in the US while Apple’s lawyers sort out patent infringement claims.

Following a big rumor mill misfire of a significant new design, the Apple Watch Series 7 appeared in 2021 with little more than a larger screen and fast charging. The Series 8 added a body temperature sensor to the mix, but that’s of relatively limited usefulness for anybody who doesn’t have a female reproductive cycle that needs to be monitored.

Wonderlust Apple Watch Series 9 16

So, it’s fair to say that the Apple Watch is due for bigger and better things, and Gurman believes that its tenth anniversary will be the time for Apple to usher in a new look and some significant improvements, much like the iPhone X did for the iPhone lineup in 2017.

While long-rumored features like blood glucose and detailed blood pressure monitoring are likely still years away, sources have revealed to Gurman that next year’s model will gain hypertension and sleep apnea detection.

The hypertension detection is akin to what Apple did with the body temperature sensor. Apple couldn’t perfect getting an accurate body temperature from the wrist, so it settled for measuring relative body temperature. Similarly, it hasn’t been able to get accurate blood pressure monitoring, but presumably, it can get close enough to at least alert you of unusual readings that you might want to have checked.

As for sleep apnea, the Apple Watch has supported sleep tracking for a few years now, so it’s probably not too much of a stretch to expand those algorithms to include sleep apnea, likely by factoring in audio cues such as snoring.

AirPods and More AirPods


We also didn’t see any noteworthy AirPods releases this year. The second-generation AirPods Pro were repackaged into a USB-C charging case with additional dust resistance and somehow gained support for lossless audio for the Vision Pro, but those are the only things that set them apart from the 2022 Lightning version — and the first two can be added by picking up the USB-C charging case on its own.

However, Apple has otherwise been on a roll with its AirPods, which makes 2023 something of an aberration. The last time we had such an uneventful year for AirPods was in 2018, when the original first-generation AirPods were still the only ones on the market. By 2019, we got the second-generation AirPods and the first set of AirPods Pro, and while 2020 almost ended without anything new, Apple rounded out the year by sneaking in the AirPods Max in December.

With the third-generation AirPods now two years old, we seriously anticipated Apple would use the iPhone 15’s USB-C switch to usher in the “AirPods 4” this fall. However, when you consider that even Apple’s Mac accessories haven’t yet gotten the USB-C treatment, it’s clear the company has its hands full right now.

That will make 2024 a big year for AirPods, but if Gurman’s sources are correct, we could be getting more than we bargained for, with Apple planning to release two versions of the “AirPods 4” next year.

Reiterating information that he shared in October, Gurman notes that Apple’s third-generation AirPods have “been somewhat of a dud with consumers.” When Apple released those in 2021, it kept the earlier 2019 second-generation versions on the market at a lower price, putting the newer model into an awkward middle-child position.

Customers looking for a bargain would be well-served by the older AirPods 2, while others could spend not much more and get the AirPods Pro, which could often be found on sale prices that lessened the gap even further.

That’s left consumers confused about which AirPods to buy, and Apple loses revenue each time they opt for the cheaper model. In some cases, shoppers turn to a competitor’s product, aiming to get comparable features to the AirPods Pro at a lower price.

Mark Gurman

Apple’s solution to that dilemma will be to release two entirely new versions of the AirPods 4, one of which will include active noise cancellation — a first for a non-pro set of AirPods. It’s unclear how Apple will brand these to set them apart — “AirPods Air” feels odd, although not out of the question — but the lower-end model could also be the “AirPods Lite” we’ve been hearing about. However, Gurman’s sources suggest the two new models will feature the same design.

While we’ll also get a USB-C refresh of the AirPods Max, little else is expected to change on those higher-end cans as they don’t sell well enough to justify significant research and development investments. We should get H2 chips that will support Apple’s Adaptive Audio features from iOS 17, bringing them on par with the current AirPods Pro.

As for those, new AirPods Pro won’t likely arrive until 2025, but by that time, Apple may have been able to crack the biggest AirPods nut it’s been working on for a few years now: adding new health sensors to its earbuds. Hearing aid features may arrive as a software update next year, likely as part of iOS 18, but things like body temperature and heart rate monitoring would require additional hardware.

[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]

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