Road to WWDC: What to expect for Apple Watch and watchOS 10

watchOS 10 concept
(Image credit: Parker Ortolani)

The Apple Watch has become the most popular watch on the planet which isn't something that we would have expected to happen back in 2015. And with watchOS 10 just around the corner, we're expecting some upgrades to make it even more impressive.

We're already expecting the Apple Watch Series 9 to be announced this September and there's a chance we'll see a new Apple Watch Ultra and Apple Watch SE, too. If we do, watchOS 10 will be the software to power them — but you won't have to rush out and buy the best Apple Watch on the market just to use it: The new software will almost certainly be compatible with a raft of older models. Which ones, we'll have to wait and see -- but here's what we already think we know (and a few things we're hoping we see, too!).

What we know so far

In terms of what we can expect from watchOS 10, we obviously haven't had anything confirmed by Apple just yet — but that doesn't mean that there aren't some things that we can look forward to based on leaks.

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has already said that watchOS 10 will be a big update over watchOS 9 for Apple Watch wearers, so there's that. Some of the leaks suggest that we will get proper iPhone-like widgets, which is an interesting idea. They're expected to give us a quicker way to access information — imagine a complication but much bigger and able to show more data, for example.

But unfortunately, for as much as Gurman has suggested this is a big year for the Apple Watch, we don't have all that much to go on right now, widgets aside. There's talk of a new Home Screen layout, but Apple has stuck with the grid and list approach for years so we'll have to see what Apple has in mind come WWDC. That said, the bubble-like app list made its debut on Apple Watch, so it's not a platform that Apple is afraid of experimenting on.

Bringing widgets to the Apple Watch could change the way people use Apple's wearable. But it might need developers to get involved even more and, to date, has the Apple Watch proven to be a platform developers have invested heavily in? Will they be from WWDC on out?

The wishlist

Apple Watch hear rate

(Image credit: Future)

When it comes to things that we'd like to see, it's a whole different story.

At the top of many a fitness fanatic's list of things they'd like to see is a change to the Fitness app that understands that rest days are a thing. We shouldn't lose a streak entirely just because we took a day off. We get what Apple's trying to do, but everyone can probably agree that there are just times when closing those rings isn't feasible — like travel days or when you're ill, for example.

However, that being said, there's one thing that almost every Apple Watch owner has wished for at one point or another.

While Apple does tend to add new Apple Watch faces every year, they still don't cater to all needs. And that's where third-party and heavily customizable watch faces would come in so handy. We already see apps like Clockology try to make that happen in a roundabout kind of way, but it isn't the same.

Imagine if, instead, you could visit the App Store and download new watch faces from developers. Or those developers could bundle watch faces as part of their apps, much the same way Apple Watch apps have been bundled with iPhone apps for years now. That sounds pretty ace and we'd be all for that happening. In fact, we'd take third-party watch faces even if it meant that every other aspect of watchOS remained the same this year. It's that big of an ask.

But what if we're feeling greedy?

Well, that's a tough one and we're back at watch faces somewhat. The Siri watch face has never really been able to fulfill its potential, so that needs to change. The watch face was supposed to surface information as and when it's needed or becomes relevant, but it just doesn't. And that's especially the case if you use a lot of third-party apps. For the Siri watch face to really be useful it needs to hook more deeply into third-party apps, or perhaps vice-versa. Whichever it is, that's on Apple to figure out because it's Apple's platform. And with WWDC being a developer conference, there's never a better time to communicate these things to the people who make Apple Watch apps, is there?

The timeline

Thankfully, we don't have to wait too long to get answers to our watchOS 10 questions — the software will very likely be announced during an event on June 5. It won't be alone, either. There'll be new software for the iPhone and iPad not to mention the Mac and Apple TV. And that's quite apart from the new hardware.

Hardware? Sure — the 15-inch MacBook Air is finally becoming a thing if you believe the rumors, while the much talked about Reality Pro AR/VR headset is also almost with us as well. The headset isn't likely to be released to the world until much later this year if only to give developers a chance to build the apps that people will use on it.

All things considered, WWDC is going to be a big week for Apple and the June 5 opening keynote is going to be a huge day. That'll be the case whether or not we get the rumored widgets or the hoped-for third-party watch faces.

Still, it doesn't hurt to dream, does it?

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.