The Apple Watch Series 7 has a new 60.5GHz module that works with a secret, corresponding dock, according to FCC filings (via MacRumors). The new wireless data transfer feature is designed to pair with a corresponding dock that Apple will use for currently unknown internal purposes. When the Series 7 watch is placed on that pad, it’ll activate the module — customers won’t actually be able to use it.
Now, this is technically nothing new for the Apple Watch, which has included a hidden physical diagnostic port since its inception. Without actually seeing an Apple Watch Series 7 in person (and checking to see if Apple is removing the physical port), it’s hard to say whether this is some new, nascent Apple technology or just a more convenient method for running hardware diagnostics for Genius Bar employees.
But the news comes just as the European Commission has announced plans to require all smartphone manufacturers to exclusively use USB-C ports on their devices in an effort to reduce e-waste. Combined with existing rumors that Apple has plans to remove all the ports on its iPhones — something that would be a more pressing concern if Apple was looking to sidestep the new EU proposal — and there’s been a lot of theorizing around the new 60.5GHz tech.
The argument is that Apple could potentially be looking to incorporate the new wireless data transfer technology into its existing charging standards, like MagSafe, on a future iPhone, selling a proprietary dock that enables wireless data transfer to a linked computer to replace a physical Lightning cable.
Pretty timely piece of news! To me, this pretty much confirms 1) future iPhones will be port-less, and 2) that Lightning will be replaced with a 60.5GHz wireless USB-substitute through a MagSafe-like attachment. I’m surprised this was added to Apple Watch first? iPhone teardown? https://t.co/vqqMIEx0yW— Steve Troughton-Smith (@stroughtonsmith) September 23, 2021
It’s a theory that has some merit; the port-less iPhone rumors have been around for a while, and they come from the generally accurate analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. It’s hard to imagine Apple giving in and suddenly offering a USB-C iPhone that would circumvent both its MFi licensing fees and its control over its most important (and lucrative) devices.
That said, the timing is probably a little too convenient here; it seems highly unlikely that Apple was working to lay the groundwork for a replacement standard that would slot neatly into a port-less iPhone, revealed on the exact day that the EU standard was announced.
There are also plenty of past internal Apple features that have similarly never come to fruition for any compelling consumer use. There’s the aforementioned Apple Watch diagnostic port, which has lain dormant for half a decade now despite dreams of battery life-extending bands and other accessories. Or, consider the Apple TV’s hidden USB-C or Lightning ports, which can’t even accomplish a task as simple as charging an Apple TV remote after all these years.
Then again, one never does know with Apple. If the company is looking to ditch charging ports — due to EU rules or its own whims — then it’s possible the new 60.5GHz module is a first look at how Apple will attempt to accomplish it.