Apple Watch widgets sound great but what happened to the apps?

Apple Watch Ultra
(Image credit: Future)

The Apple Watch might be the most popular watch in the world but that doesn't mean that it can't be improved upon. That's what Apple is expected to do when it ships watchOS 10 to the world later in 2023, but what's it going to change and will it actually improve matters?

According to a new report, it'll definitely be different. Whether it'll be better is something we'll have to reserve judgment on. That report claims that Apple is bringing iOS 16-style widgets to the Apple Watch for the first time, and that sounds super interesting for a variety of reasons. Being able to quickly see information is something the Apple Watch is best at, but if Apple's admitting widgets are the way to go from here on out, it begs one simple question.

Was there not an app for that?

The case for widgets

It's Bloomberg's Mark Gurman who first reported that Apple is ready to go all-in on Apple Watch widgets. He believes that the widgets themselves will be similar to the tiles that we already see when using the Siri watch face, which has always been one of my favorite faces. Not because it cycles through and surfaces information when I need it like it was supposed to — it doesn't — but because it was the face that always felt most like what I expected a smartwatch to do — show me information that a traditional watch can't.

The best Apple Watch, to me at least, is one that is as far removed from a traditional watch as possible. At least in terms of the software that it runs. Bringing widgets to the Apple Watch sounds like a great idea because it will make it quicker and easier for people to access the kinds of information that they wear a smartwatch for in the first place.

Gurman says that the new widgets "will be available as an overlay for any watch face" and that it'll be "similar to widget stacks" that are already available on the iPhone and iPad. I'm all for that. Sign me up.

But Gurman also makes another interesting point about what this means for Apple and the age-old approach of there being an app for everything.

"The move is an admission that the iPhone-like app format doesn’t always make sense on a watch — a place where you want as much information as possible with the least amount of poking around," he says. Which is quite the admission to make.

So what about the apps?

Apple Watch series 8

(Image credit: Future / iMore)

You don't need to have been the biggest Apple fan to have heard the "there's an app for that" tagline. It's closely related to the iPhone, but the App Store being on the Apple Watch should mean the same there, too.

But Apple recently admitted that less than a million European Apple Watch owners used the App Store in the six months leading to January 31, 2023. For comparison's sake, 101 million people used the iOS App Store. 23 million used the iPad App Store. 6 million used the Mac App Store, and we all know how everyone feels about that.

So what happened to apps on the Apple Watch? They exist, I know they do. There are some great Apple Watch apps out there. Some of them have even greater complications for your Apple Watch face, but people don't seem to bother installing them.

I have to imagine that'll change when we get widgets because how else will people get their hands on them? If there will indeed be a focus on widgets we can expect Apple to want to make sure that people are well aware of where they come from and that's sure to be the App Store. Widgets will likely function the way they do on the iPhone and iPad — bundled into apps and used to display their information.

If anything, this could be something of a reawakening for the Apple Watch App Store and, hopefully, Apple Watch app developers as well. But it's all a sign that Apple perhaps hasn't helped those developers as much as it could so far, either by making people aware of their wares or by building watchOS to help them leverage its capabilities and the unique way it's used.

Maybe that'll all change with watchOS 10.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.