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article imageThe Apple Watch's mysterious diagnostic port is drawing attention

By James Walker     Apr 12, 2015 in Technology
Rumours are flying on the Internet about the purpose of a mysterious diagnostic port on the Apple Watch that is present even on retail units. Some have speculated that it may be intended for use in the future beyond simple diagnostics by Apple staff.
The diagnostic port on the Apple Watch first drew attention back in early March when 9to5Mac revealed that a Lightning 6-dot brass contact array resides beneath the connector for the bottom strap.
Fair enough, you may say, and so did many. It is not unusual for devices to have diagnostic ports for engineers to poke about with, especially when a product is under development.
Sources at the time quickly confirmed that the port existed but there was some disagreement over what it was for. Many said it was simply a diagnostic port for diagnostic tasks but others claimed that it was something rather more exciting.
It was suggested that the connector could be used for connecting accessories to the watch after its launch. Based on its placement, these would clearly take the form of smart straps that could add extra functionality to the device. The rumours were quelled by other sources and some said that the connector would not even be present on devices shipped to buyers.
Apple Watch demo units in Apple stores have the diagnostic port exposed and usable
Apple Watch demo units in Apple stores have the diagnostic port exposed and usable
It has emerged that the retail Apple Watch's currently employed on demo purposes in Apple Stores do in fact have the port though. Revealed by MacRumours, a reader of that site managed to slip off the bottom band to see what lay beneath while trying the watch on in-store. Underneath, the connector was quite clearly present and usable.
The mystery deepens further though. Renowned Apple pundit John Gruber posted an image of his watch to Twitter shortly afterwards. An Apple review unit that was sent to him, his device also has the port present but it is completely covered over by a piece of metal.
Apple hasn't officially said what the port is for or even commented on its existence. No mention is made of it in any Apple Watch documentation.
The port in all probability is just a diagnostic tool used during development and testing. It is likely to only be present in devices used as demo units for the Apple stores which clearly had to be built and shipped before the consumer units were ready but this doesn't fully explain Gruber's watch with the port covered over.
Although it is very unlikely that Apple will come out in the future with a whole range of smart bands utilising the connection, the port could theoretically be used for that purpose. The mystery of the port and its real function may not ever be known unless Apple speaks out but don't go getting your hopes up over what is almost certainly just a diagnostic port.
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