It's hard to believe we're already approaching watchOS 4. In just about a month, Apple will host WWDC 2017 in San Jose, California, and unveil what's next for the Watch. The teams have been hard are work on it since just after the last version shipped, so it's a little late for wish lists. But, it's never to late to sum everything up that I'd like to see and get a jumpstart on June!
Here's my short list.
1. Ambient time — so Apple Watch actually works as a watch
I love my Apple Watch dearly but one of the biggest ways it still falls down hard is... as a watch. When I glance at a traditional watch, at any point, from any angle, I can still see the time. When I glance at my Apple Watch, unless I rotate or lift it sharply, mostly all I see is a blank screen. And so, instead of being all cool and casual, it's wicked obvious I'm looking.
With watchOS 3, Apple spent some of Watch's RAM and power budget to provide quick-launching apps. With watch OS 4, I'd love to see Apple spend some of that budget on ambient time instead. Subtle, low-power, always-on time that we could check without looking so much like we're checking.
2. A carefully curated watch face store, because Superman
Hey, iOS 10 gave us stickers, right? The odds of Apple opening up an Android Wear-style bazaar, where anything and everything can be uploaded, copyright be damned, is somewhere between zero and nil. But, the odds of Apple providing templates so everything from classic characters to the latest movies could have watch faces all their own?
The way Apples handling faces now can't scale. Adding Donald Duck or Wonder Woman as one-offs just isn't workable. Instead, imagine a few Watch face templates that can take special animated images, and those images are available from within the Watch app much like stickers are available in the iMessage app. A FaceKit, so to speak, for watchOS 4.
3. Proactive complications and dynamic watch faces
A couple of years ago, Apple started making Siri proactive. Instead of waiting for us to ask for stuff, Siri would start offering it up when time, location, and past behavioral patterns indicated we might want it. It's great, and would be even better on Watch.
For faces with the large complication, it would be easier — the smaller ones a bit trickier. But, imagine workouts didn't permanently take up a scarce and valuable complication slot, it simply appeared just before the times you most often worked out, or if a tap to message complication showed up when you usually signaled your significant other you were on your way home, or if you suddenly saw the Reminders complication just when you parked at the supermarket and needed your list.
I wouldn't want all complications popping in and out all the time, because that's the path to madness. Just let me pick a complication slot or two as "proactive" and then have at it.
4. Watch Apps, take 2 (or, let extensions be extensions)
When you have the most successful app platform in history, everything looks like an app. So, it's little wonder Apple Watch tried to mimic the iPhone and iPad model. But, a device that's meant for brief, frequent, important interactions may not have been the best fit for traditional binary app blobs.
Notifications work great. So do complications. Apple nailed that with the original watchOS. Who needs a Clock app when you can access a timer or stopwatch from the watch face or via Siri? That's the post-app, functionality-set-free approach I hope we see more of in watchOS 4 and beyond.
Your watchOS 4 wish-list?
There's a lot more I'd like to see in watchOS 4, including Notes, Voice Recorder, Podcasts, and News extensions so I can get down and retrieve important bits of information on the go; trusted object for multi-factor authentication; leaderboard for activity sharing friends, and more. But, this is about you now, not me. As we head towards WWDC 2017, what's top of your Apple Watch wish-list?
Master your iPhone in minutes
iMore offers spot-on advice and guidance from our team of experts, with decades of Apple device experience to lean on. Learn more with iMore!
Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.