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Apple plans to launch a rugged watch for extreme sports

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Apple Inc. considers to release an Apple Watch with a rugged casing aimed at athletes, hikers and others who use the device in more extreme environments.

Apple Inc. is considering to release an Apple Watch with a rugged casing aimed at athletes, hikers and others who use the device in more extreme environments later in 2021 or 2022 at the earliest, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Cupertino, California-based tech giant, has internally discussed introducing such a Watch variation later in 2021 or 2022 at the earliest, said the people, who asked not to be identified to discuss private matters.

This is at least the second time Apple has thought of a rugged smartwatch. After launching the first version of the Apple Watch in 2015, the company considered a new model to better appeal to extreme sports athletes. The current version continues to be popular with runners, hikers, and swimmers, and Apple has added several sports and activity tracking features through its annual update cycle. However, Casio Computer Co. and other watchmakers have seen robust product designs with added protection.

If Apple goes ahead this time, the rugged version would be an add-on model similar to how Apple offers a lower-cost option called the Apple Watch SE and special editions co-branded with Nike Inc. and Hermes International. Sometimes referred to as the "Explorer Edition" within Apple, the product would have the same functionality as a standard Apple Watch, but with additional impact resistance and protection in G-Shock watches' Casio line.

The latest Apple Watch models are already water-resistant to 50 meters, in the high end for most smartwatches. But Apple could make a new device more "tough" by giving it a rubberized exterior that would be useful for environments where current aluminium, titanium, and stainless steel cases could be prone to damage.

Development of the new Apple Watch variation could eventually be cancelled or delayed, people familiar with the matter said. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

Apple is also working on new swim-tracking features for the Apple Watch. The company usually launches new models in September. Last year, it released the lower-cost Apple Watch SE and added a faster processor and blood oxygen sensor with the Apple Watch Series 6.

The Apple Watch has become one of Apple's most important products, although it does not disclose how much revenue it generates. The device is part of the company's wearables, home and accessories segment, which generated sales of more than $ 30 billion in its last year fiscal year. That made it Apple's most successful product category other than the iPhone. According to Counterpoint Research, Apple had 40% of the smartwatch market in the last quarter of 2020.

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