Apple

Big updates coming for the Apple Watch and TV set-top box

Apple is preparing the first update for the new Apple Watch and a big revamp for its Apple TV set-top box. Jordan Golson explains.

Apple Watch
Image: ZDNet

The Apple Watch has been out for nearly a month now. Even though it remains sold out, Apple's engineers are hard at work on the first software updates for the wrist-mounted computer.

According to a report from the usually-accurate Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac, Apple has a number of features in the works that weren't quite ready for the launch back in April.

The Apple Watch includes a feature that can "ping" your iPhone, causing it to make a loud noise when you've misplaced it. It's surprisingly handy—I've found my phone slipped between the couch cushions more than once. But what about if you lose your watch?

Apple is working on a "Find My Watch" feature that helps locate a missing Apple Watch and even remotely lock or erase it if it's lost or stolen. A similar feature has existed for several years for Macs, iPhones, and iPads. Gurman says another feature will work like a "Smart Leash," alerting the user via the Watch if the paired iPhone is left behind, though it's possible that this particular ability may need more advanced wireless hardware than is available in the current iteration of the Apple Watch.

Before the Apple Watch launched, there were significant rumors and attention paid to the health tracking aspect of the device. Some functions, such as oxygen saturation or blood pressure tracking, were worked on but didn't make the final cut, with only heart rate sensing available in the current model. Gurman says Apple is developing software to detect an irregular heartbeat (which could be achieved with the current heart rate sensor), but it could be killed over regulatory concerns from the FDA, as it would go well beyond the current fitness focus in favor of trying to diagnose an illness.

Apple is said to have a number of health-related features that it wants to add in future versions of the Watch, including sleep tracking, glucose sensors, and the aforementioned oxygen saturation monitor.

Finally, Apple is said to be working on allowing third-party Watch face "Complications"—the little add-ons that can be installed on the various Watch faces, like the current temperature, battery life, or upcoming calendar events. Gurman says Apple is testing a Twitter complication that can show the text of a Twitter mention or the number of unread notifications from the app.

None of these developments are particularly surprising, but it's good to hear that Apple is hard at work on new Watch software and that perhaps we won't need to wait an entire year to see some improvements.

As far as the Apple TV goes, Gurman claims that a new Apple TV box will be shown in June with Siri integration, plus long-awaited third-party application support. Also included will be an over-the-top subscription television service that will allow subscribers to get access to channels like ESPN or broadcast networks with just an internet connection.

This is something I'm particularly excited about—a recent report from the Wall Street Journal said Apple killed off its high-definition television project a year ago, and it appears Apple has focused its work on this set-top box instead.

Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference takes place early next month, with a keynote from Apple executives likely to be the highlight of the show and the most logical place for some of these new features and products to launch.

Will these developments make it more likely for you to buy a new Apple TV or Watch? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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About Jordan Golson

Jordan Golson is an Apple Columnist for TechRepublic. He also writes about technology and automobiles for WIRED and MacRumors. He has worked for Apple Retail twice and has been writing about technology since 2007.

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