The Apple Watch 7 will likely bring several upgrades that make the best smartwatch around even more attractive and even less indispensable. But there’s one improvement Apple really needs to make to maximize the potential of its flagship wearable — and that’s to make the screen bigger.
It’s time for the Apple Watch to come in larger sizes. For years, the Apple Watch has developed into an increasingly autonomous computing device. When the Apple Watch 3 introduced LTE, users could stay connected without their iPhone nearby. Most recently, watchOS 8 improved the Watch messaging experience and added support for digital keys, so people could get into cars, hotel rooms and more with a wrist-based virtual wallet.
As incredible as these features are in the scope of the short history of smartwatches, it’s not enough for the Apple Watch to advance past the need for an iPhone. Instead, the Apple Watch should take a key cue from the iPhone’s longer history by growing its display size.
The original, first-generation iPhone had a 3.5-inch display. A few versions later, the iPhone 6 Plus notably offered a 5.5-inch display. The iPhone XS Max upped the ante with a 6.5-inch OLED screen, then the iPhone 12 Pro Max made it 6.8 inches — the largest iPhone display ever.
While the iPhone 12 mini returned to a palm-friendly 5.4 inches, shoppers want big phones. Sales numbers from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (opens in new tab) show that the iPhone 12 mini was the least popular iPhone 12 model in the three months following the lineup’s launch. It’s a striking comparison to watch videos or read on two displays with a one-inch display difference.
That’s why we don’t usually do those things on the Apple Watch. The current Apple Watch 6 comes in 40-millimeters and 44-millimeters, making for a miniaturized user experience that’s excellent in snippets but impractical for productivity.
Adding a couple of millimeters to the Apple Watch might not sound like a major change, and it’s certainly not as major of a change as the inch between the largest and smallest iPhone 12 options. But even the 45-millimeter Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 seems significantly bigger. The 50-millimeter Suunto 7, one of the best running watches, is a game-changer for on-the-go athletes with larger wrists.
Of course, those with smaller wrists like myself might find a massive smartwatch unwieldy. Our hands can hold phones of all different sizes — within reason. You can’t make a person’s wrist or forearm larger to accommodate bigger watches, though. Comfort will be the biggest obstacle, especially if the Apple Watch is to be worn at all times, including overnight for sleep tracking.
A larger display will also require more power, meaning we likely wouldn’t see Apple Watch battery life improve, even with that extra space. But that space could be used for other functions we rely on the iPhone for, like more capable microphones and speakers or a stronger processor for browsing the internet.
Sooner rather than later, we’ll also see some iteration of Apple Glasses, or AR lenses that could act as a camera. These frames could capture moments as they happen, among other computing abilities we’ve grown to expect from the iPhone. The Apple Watch could act as the control panel, dissolving the need for a phone or other device that’s held instead of worn.
The Apple Watch in its current size options could probably work just fine for navigating AR glasses, but a larger display would certainly open the door to a more complete, iPhone-less system.
At the very least, a larger Apple Watch would make more of a fashion statement. Some people just like big honkin’ watches to show off, and I can't blame them.