Toggle Dark Mode
The saga of the flat-edged-Apple-Watch-that-never-came has become one of the biggest Apple rumour mill gaffes in recent history, leading to much speculation on how the pundits got their predictions of the new Apple Watch so very, very wrong.
To be fair, the earliest reports of a major new Apple Watch design were vague, coming last fall from reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. However, even he hinted at a â€œsignificant form factor design change,â€ and itâ€™s fair to say that what we got was nothing close to that.
By spring, however, the leaker circuit was putting some actual renders around this supposed redesign, with folks like Jon Prosser and Sam Kohl predicting a flat-edged styling that would put it in line with Appleâ€™s iPhone 12 and recent iPad Pro models.
If true, it would have been the biggest Apple Watch redesign in years â€” perhaps the only redesign in the productâ€™s history, in fact, since many would fairly argue that the increase in screen size on the Apple Watch Series 4 doesnâ€™t really constitute a â€œredesign.â€
Either way, it seems many people believed this new design was coming. Even Bloombergâ€™s Mark Gurman, who has a pretty solid track record of only speaking about things that heâ€™s fairly certain of, got caught up by them as well, predicting a â€œflat screen and flat edges to match the iPhone and iPad design.â€
Of course, as we now know, this is not at all what we ended up with.
As to why the leakers were so easily duped? Most theories centered around three possibilities: Apple had deliberately planted false information as part of a â€œsting operationâ€ against leakers, folks were seeing an old design that Apple had prototyped, but abandoned, or they were seeing a design intended for next yearâ€™s Apple Watch Series 8 and simply jumped the gun on assuming it was for this year.
There was also a fourth theory that Apple changed things up at the last minute due to the rumoured production problems. This was the least plausible scenario by far, since thatâ€™s not really how any company does things. If Apple had abandoned the flat-edged design, it would have done so months ago, not mere days.
Proponents of this theory pointed to the â€œlater this fallâ€ availability as evidence that Apple was forced to go back to the drawing board and design an entirely new Apple Watch model after the flat-edged design failed. Of course, with the Apple Watch Series 7 now scheduled to land in stores next Friday, itâ€™s fair to say this wasnâ€™t the case.
Frankly, it never made much sense in the first place, however, since Apple would not announce a product design that it hadnâ€™t even considered â€” and make no mistake, the display on the new Apple Watch is a significant redesign.
Another Interesting Possibility?
Now, Daring Fireballâ€™s John Gruber has just offered another really fascinating take on the whole fiasco, suggesting that the new design was real, but never intended for a mainstream Apple Watch model to begin with.
Gruber believes that the leaked information was far too accurate not to be something that was â€œmaking its way through Appleâ€™s supply chain,â€ which suggests that itâ€™s a product thatâ€™s already being prototyped and tested by manufacturers.
For the most part, Apple tries to lock down its designs about 10-12 months before shipping a new product. Appleâ€™s executives have already revealed that this is the case with each yearâ€™s iPhone lineup, which is almost always decided upon by the prior November, and thereâ€™s no reason to believe that the Apple Watch would be any different.
Since the rumours of the new Apple Watch design appeared this past spring, however, that seems too early for the Series 8 to already be in anything but the very earliest prototyping stages, where it would exist only within Appleâ€™s highly secretive labs.
Instead, Gruber postulates that the flat-sided design is intended for the next-generation Apple Watch SE.
At this point, weâ€™ve only seen one generation of Apple Watch SE, released alongside the Series 6 last year. It stands to reason that Apple wouldnâ€™t release a new SE version every year, but itâ€™s also certainly believable that at some point it may want to visually distinguish the lower-end, entry-level model from the more premium Apple Watch versions.
My guess is that the flat-sided design is real, and itâ€™s making its way through Appleâ€™s supply chain, which is how it leaked. But it clearly was never intended for Series 7â€‰â€”â€‰Series 7 is an altogether different new industrial design. So my theory is that the flat-sided design is for the next-generation Apple Watch SE.John Gruber
After all, the current Apple Watch SE is visually indistinguishable from an Apple Watch Series 4, Series 5, or Series 6. Granted, the mainstream models are available in more premium finishes, but if you put an Apple Watch SE beside an aluminum Apple Watch Series 4, 5, or 6, youâ€™d be hard-pressed to tell the difference just by looking at them.
Since thereâ€™s only been one generation of the Apple Watch SE, itâ€™s difficult to predict a trend for the new lower-cost model, but now that Apple has broken the ice with the first one, itâ€™s certainly possible it could move to a spring launch cycle, similar to the iPhone SE.
In this case, we could see an â€œApple Watch SE Series 2â€ as soon as March or April, which would put the timing perfectly in line with the designs getting locked down â€”Â and falling into the hands of the rumour mill â€”Â this past May.
As exciting as the rumoured Apple Watch design seems to some, Gruber makes the valid point that it feels too â€œutilitarianâ€ for Appleâ€™s wearable. Just because the design works on an iPhone or iPad doesnâ€™t mean that itâ€™s something people are going to want on their wrists.
Iâ€™m not saying the flat-sided design would look bad, per se, but I am convinced thatâ€‰â€”â€‰if it ever does shipâ€‰â€”â€‰it will look more utilitarian. Itâ€™s not a premium design. Itâ€™s plain.John Gruber
After all, even though Apple has long since stopped worrying about impressing the fashion industry, the Apple Watch is still a watch, first and foremost, and therefore has to appeal to customers in a way thatâ€™s entirely different from a smartphone or a tablet.
Itâ€™s definitely an interesting and very plausible idea, and itâ€™s understandable how a â€œboxierâ€ Apple Watch would have more limited appeal.
At the same time, though, it also seems unusual for Apple to take a design language that itâ€™s been using solely for premium devices for the past few years, and bring that to the lower-end Apple Watch.
The preponderance of evidence suggests that Apple is likely at least working on this design, so whether itâ€™s intended for the Apple Watch SE or next yearâ€™s Apple Watch Series 8, itâ€™s safe to say we can expect to hear more about it in the coming months.
[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.]