New report says Jeff Williams helped push the Apple Watch towards cellular connectivity

Before the end of June, Apple announced that its long-standing design lead, Jony Ive, was on the way out. As a result, there was some shuffling done to the design team, including Jeff Williams (Apple’s Chief Operating Officer) taking up the reigns to lead the charge.

Evans Hankey, vice president of Industrial Design, and Alan Dye, vice president of Human Interface Design, will be answering directly to Williams from here on out. With these changes in place, questions have obviously surfaced about what Apple’s new devices will look like, especially compared to what came before. Can Williams, and the team assembled to help out, really make a lasting impression in the way that Ive has done?

That question can’t be answered now, but we do have a hint at just how long Williams himself has been involved with design and major feature decisions for devices, including the Apple Watch. According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, Williams was an integral part of adding cellular connectivity to the Apple Watch.

But, perhaps even more important than that, Williams was also reportedly a major driving force in Apple’s smartwatch adding more health features, which has obviously become one of the Apple Watch’s most important elements.

However, while all of that may be true (which could be supported by Apple, with Williams’s official biography stating he “led the development of Apple Watch in close collaboration with the design team”), another source told the publication that Williams “sees where we are, not where we need to be in years to come”.

The original report states that Apple is “in need of a new hit”, and there is certainly a lot of speculation in general about whether or not Apple’s new design lead can make that happen. And while Williams may not have designed the Apple Watch itself, there is no denying that including cellular connectivity and leaning more into health features has helped catapult the wearable even further ahead of the competition.

(One could also argue that these specific elements were inevitable anyway, which could further support the anonymous source’s statement that Williams sees more of the now, rather than what’s coming next.)

The other way to look at this is that Williams really is just on overwatch duty, and Apple is really injecting new blood into the design of its products moving forward with the aforementioned Hankey and Dye carrying the weight of Apple’s future designs on their shoulders. If that is indeed the case, Williams offering up features that can help the Apple Watch stand out, and be even more helpful to owners, is definitely not a bad thing.

Ive is set to leave Apple later this year as he launches his own design firm. In a separate report after Apple’s announcement, the WSJ said that Ive’s departure started way back in 2015, after the launch of the first Apple Watch. However, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, has come forward and said that report from the publication is “absurd” and said the details of the report don’t line up with “reality”.

As far as design is concerned, which is obviously one of the biggest elements of Apple’s business, the next few years are going to be very interesting. The full report is certainly worth checking out.

What do you think? Will Williams be able to keep Apple’s ship sailing in the right direction?