Apple considers jumping into rugged wearables with new Watch model

apple watch series 6 laying sideways on a table next to the sport band and solo loop band
Enlarge / The Solo loop and Sport band with the Apple Watch Series 6.
Corey Gaskin

Apple is “considering” releasing a new model of Apple Watch with a rugged design intended to protect the device “in more extreme environments,” according to a new report.

Citing “people familiar with the matter,” Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman writes that Apple has been exploring the idea of introducing a rugged Apple Watch for years—since at least the launch of the original Apple Watch in 2015.

The design would target athletes, hikers, and others who may spend time in conditions the current Apple Watch is not designed to endure.

Should Apple move forward with the plan, Bloomberg’s sources say that the new model could arrive as soon as this year or next. The company is currently calling it the Apple Watch “Explorer Edition” internally, but that name is not final.

In any case, it would exist alongside the Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE (or their successors) in Apple’s online store. The report does not go into detail about the materials or design except to compare the kind of protection the Watch will have to that seen in Casio G-SHOCK watches. The report says the device will have a “rubberized exterior.”

Many of Apple’s competitors in the wearables space have achieved strong sales with smartwatches designed to be durable in outdoor environments. Apple does not offer an equivalent device, though the current Apple Watch is water- and dust-resistant, to a point.

Apple’s wearables business—which includes not just the Watch but also AirPods (and potentially mixed-reality glasses in the future)—is one of the company’s fastest growing categories. Over the past few years, the company leaned on growing wearables and services revenue to counterbalance declining iPhone sales, even though those devices are generally designed to be dependent on an iPhone. However, last year saw somewhat better iPhone sales growth.