watchOS 11 has some big shoes to fill — these are the three features I'd love to see improved in the next update for Apple Watch

Apple Watch Ultra and MacBook Pro
(Image credit: Future / Apple)

Both Apple Watch and watchOS had begun to feel stagnant in recent years. While I remain nonplussed by the Apple Watch Ultra 2 and Series 9, the watchOS team knocked it out of the park this year.

While the hardware platform remained more incremental than ever, watchOS was reborn with its tenth incarnation. Revised widgets, refreshed app designs, and improved workout metrics and medication reminders made it an easy recommendation for installation right off the bat — and unlike other updates in 2023, it’s been stable in my use with it, too.

So, how do you follow up on such a big upgrade? It won’t be easy, but there are certainly things I want to see in watchOS 11.

 Rethinking Rings

Three Apple Watches side by side, showing the Fitness app in watchOS 10.

(Image credit: Future)

When many of us first picked up an Apple Watch, the activity rings were an instant hook. Stand, move, and work out to fill the rings, and get a streak going - it was an instantly recognizable part of the Apple Watch that many competitors moved to ape in some way.

Eight years on, though, it’d be fair to say that Apple has slipped behind the pack a little with this feature. It’s not to say those three pillars haven’t improved, it’s just that they no longer tell the whole story.

Back in April, I had written that Apple still doesn’t understand rest and recovery, and it’s true. At its most basic level, rest helps recover muscles. For athletes, rest helps muscles repair themselves to come back bigger and stronger, repairing torn muscle fibers.

While that’s not to say your Apple Watch should be insisting on a bench press a day to keep the rings at bay, it also fails to take into account things like poor mental health days, illnesses, or life getting in the way.

Should you still get the ‘kudos’ of completing your ring when you take a day off? No, but Fitbit’s ‘Daily Readiness Score’ offers a great example of taking information from activity, recovery, and other health metrics to help mitigate the risk of injury by advising users to take it easy every now and again.

Come on Apple, give us a day off.

A watch face Marketplace

Apple Watch Ultra Metal Gear Codec

(Image credit: Future / Apple)

This has been a part of the watchOS conversation since the platform debuted in 2015 — and while Apple has quietened things down a little with the addition of a couple of extra watch faces each year, it’s still not quite at the point where we can instantly download other users’ designs.

With that in mind, I’d love to see a watch face gallery that acts similarly to Shortcuts. It may need to take into account your installed apps, but doing so could be a great way of recommending apps that have useful complications — especially since I’d argue not many Apple Watch users are using the display on their wrist to look for new apps to install (as cool as it is).

The rough idea is already in place, too, with the Watch app able to share your layout and complications with friends and contacts, so hopefully, watchOS 11 will see it made more widely available.

Speed up those downloads

Apple Watch making a cellular call

(Image credit: iMore)

If you’ve been using an Apple Watch for a while, you’ll likely know that Apple’s wearable has internal storage users can use for not only installing apps but also downloading things like music and podcasts, too.

I’ve been using Apple Watches for running and workouts where I leave my phone at home for years, installing Spotify playlists and albums and Pocket Casts podcast episodes, but it’s not particularly intuitive.

Updating a Spotify playlist doesn’t instantly sync the change to your Watch, forcing you to remove the download and re-add it. Pocket Casts is clunky, too, and while an argument could be made that these are third-party apps, I’ve tried others that are just as fiddly.

Apple’s own options are better, but even they can take a while to download a playlist or show. While I feel like download speed could be a hardware consideration, just making it easier to tap into the onboard storage of the Apple Watch across any app would be a big boon — I shouldn’t have to spend 15 minutes hovering by my phone so that I can listen to a podcast on a run.

Lloyd Coombes
Contributor

Lloyd Coombes is a freelance writer with a specialism in Apple tech. From his first, hand-me-down iMac, he’s been working with Apple products for over a decade, and while he loves his iPhone and Mac, the iPad will always have his heart for reasons he still can’t quite fathom.

Since moving from blogging to writing professionally, Lloyd’s work can be found at TechRadar, Macworld, TechAdvisor and plenty more.

He’s also the Editor in Chief at GGRecon.com, and on the rare occasion he’s not writing you’ll find him spending time with his son, or working hard at the gym (while wearing an Apple Watch, naturally). You can find him on Twitter @lloydcoombes.