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Apple Watch 7 could replace your iPhone with this major upgrade

Apple Watch 7 could replace your iPhone with this major upgrade
(Image credit: Future)

The Apple Watch 7 or other future Apple Watch generations could have an enhanced communications system, bringing the Apple Watch closer to replacing the need for iPhones. 

In a patent spotted by Apple Insider, Apple describes a smartwatch design that includes a phased antenna array, which uses existing Apple Watch components. It appears the company is researching ways to spread the communications antennas throughout multiple parts of the watch, including the casing and display.

According to the patent, the system would allow the Apple Watch display to "serve as an antenna for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, cellular frequencies, and/or other frequencies without the need to incorporate bulky antenna structures."

The Apple Watch's current antenna arrangement is by no means faulty. But even when we've tested cellular Apple Watch models that work without an iPhone, we'd hesitate to leave our smartphones at home. 

With boosted frequencies, a future Apple Watch could potentially offer speedier, less demanding communications. This may lead to better battery efficiency. Right now the Apple Watch Series 6 with an always-on display lasts 18-24 hours on a single charge, but using the cellular connection results in faster battery drain.

This isn't the first patent to propose alternatives to the current antenna system, leading us to believe Apple is channeling some resources towards improving how the Apple Watch independently communicates with other devices and satellites. 

That said, we don't think the time to ditch your smartphone is coming anytime soon. While the Apple Watch 7 will introduce internal upgrades, we have an iPhone 13 launch coming later this year. Plus this is just a patent, meaning there's no guarantee Apple is going to use this antenna system or a version of it in future watches or at all.

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is a senior writer at Tom’s Guide covering wearables, TVs and everything smart-home related. When she’s not in cyborg mode, you can find her on an exercise bike or channeling her inner celebrity chef. She and her robot army will rule the world one day, but until then, reach her at kate.kozuch@futurenet.com.