Apple reportedly plans to release a version of its smartwatch capable of connecting directly to mobile networks, and is currently holding talks with operators in the US and Europe about the move.
Bloomberg, citing people familiar with the matter, reported Apple is looking to reduce the Apple Watch’s reliance on the iPhone, and could release a new version of the smartwatch later this year.
The current versions of the Apple Watch must be connected to an iPhone to perform certain tasks, such as using the map functions for directions, sending messages and receiving calls.
However, Apple is planning to equip its latest watch with LTE chips, and enable the device to conduct certain tasks without an iPhone in sight.
According to sources, Intel will supply the LTE modems for the new watch, as Apple broadens its relationship with the chipmaker following a deal for the new iPhone in 2016. Qualcomm had been Apple’s main chip supplier, but the two companies remain locked in a legal battle.
It is unclear which operators Apple is in talks with in Europe about the move, but Bloomberg noted companies backing the new LTE Apple Watch may be limited to those which also offer the iPhone, at least initially.
Major US operators Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile US plan to sell the new device, added Bloomberg sources.
The move comes after Apple reportedly planned to launch an LTE-capable smartwatch in 2016, but chose to hold off due to battery issues.
However, it did make a move to make the device more independent after selling some of its new models with a built in GPS chip.
Apple said at its worldwide developers conference in June its latest software update for Apple Watch, the WatchOS 4, would include more voice enabled features and the ability to send payments in its iMessage platform.
The vendor currently ranks behind both Xiaomi and Fitbit in the wearables market, according to latest rankings from Strategy Analytics, dropping one place in the last calendar quarter.
However, CEO Tim Cook said the current Watch was the best selling smartwatch “by a very wide margin”, in the company’s fiscal Q3 earnings calls.