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Will the next Apple watch be a standalone device? This update may be a clue

Apple has told developers that all future apps for the Apple Watch must be "native" or able to run independently of the iPhone, potentially paving the way for the next version of the watch to run independently of the smartphone.

The tech company said late on Friday that by June 1, all new apps submitted to the App Store must be built with watchOS 2 SDK – software that supports native apps.

Currently, many Apple Watch apps run off the iPhone. Native apps however run faster and improve the performance of the device.



By insisting all apps are native, Apple may be hinting that the next watch could be independent of the iPhone.

"We believe that the next step for the Apple Watch would be to integrate cellular connectivity and now we have seen embedded SIM technology go into the latest iPad, so it's a small step to move into the Watch," Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, told CNBC by phone.

An embedded SIM is a circuit chip that is built into a device and can be programmed to work with certain mobile carriers. The iPad Pro has an embedded SIM.

If Apple does add the cellular technology needed, it will be interesting to see how much it alters the shape of the device in order to fit it in. Also, adding cellular technology is a bigger drain on battery life, so Apple will need to make sure the next Apple Watch has a better battery.

By having a device that does not need to be tethered to an iPhone, users will be able to buy the Apple Watch without the need for owning an iPhone, which could be a potential boost for sales.

"We believe Apple putting an embedded SIM card in the Apple Watch will be a driver of growth," Wood said.

Some critics have been underwhelmed with the performance of the Apple Watch, which is now one year old.

Apple shipped 13.6 million units of the device in 2015 and commands a 65 percent smartwatch market share, according to Strategy Analytics. Samsung is second with a 13 percent market share, after shipping 2.7 million devices last year.