- New smart stack from the digital crown
- New widgets
- New faces
TBC, developer beta out now
During a lengthy, pre-recorded keynote address opening up the annual WWDC developer conference -- which took place on a hot summer day under the blazing California sun -- Apple unveiled watchOS 10, its brand new wearable operating system coming to Apple Watch later this year.
Apple says the new wearable OS will feature a new layout for consuming information, new widgets, and a comprehensive overhaul of some major apps -- notably including the Weather app.
Turning the Digital Crown on Apple Watch now reveals a smart stack of widgets, and there's a new look to apps like Fitness, Maps, and more. Those widgets can also hold complications like timers and more. World Clock features new dynamic backgrounds, and the Activity app includes new corner icons and an updated trophy case. There are also some fantastic new full-screen views. Indeed, watchOS 10 promises to be a stunning redesign of Apple's wearable OS.
A completely new Interface
Apple seems to have taken a new approach to the design of watchOS, with a new focus on what it is calling 'Smart Stack'. Accessible with the Digital Crown, it will grant you more glanceable information when you look at your wrist. This will be comprised of small, rectangular versions of your Apps and widgets, with small versions of apps like News, Weather, and Health. Tapping these will take you to the app itself, where you'll find some more new design elements.
The idea is to make these elements give you more information using more of the screen, rather than the smaller complications that Apple Watch has relied on before. Apple says that "A new Smart Stack contains widgets that display timely information that adapts to the user’s context and can be revealed with a simple turn of the Digital Crown from any watch face."
The widgets in the smart stack will give more information than before – information that's live, and useful. Apple says that the new Smart Stack "enables users to enjoy a beautiful watch face, like Portraits, while still offering a way to quickly access information they care about."
Developers will also be able to use the new feature, allowing for 3rd party apps in the Smart Stack.
Control center has moved to the side button as a part of the new design, making it easier to open it whenever you might need it. Double-clicking the Digital Crown reopens any apps used recently.
New watch faces
There are two new faces coming to Apple Watch in watchOS 10. The first is the Palette face, which shifts and changes using three layers as the time changes.
The second new face is Snoopy – the Peanuts characters Snoopy and Woodstock are coming to a new watch face, with interactive time pieces. The characters will play with the hands of the watch, and even react to weather conditions where you are.
Apple has also updated its cycling app with power zone tracking and FTP calculations. Short for Functional Threshold Performance, FTP is a key stat for cyclists and a welcome addition to the platform. Apple Watch will also connect automatically to cycling accessories, "such as power meters, speed sensors, and cadence sensors."
There are updates for Hikers as well with the compass, letting you save Apple Maps offline for when you are very much off the grid. There is an 'in case of emergencies' call function as well, called "Last Emergency Call Waypoint." that will estimate where on a route your device last had a connection so that you can find the best place to call an emergency contact.
There are Mental Health updates as well to help with your mental well-being. It's all in the new Mindfulness app, which will let you log your moods and what's making you feel that way. This will all work with the Health App as well, letting you see a complete picture of both your physical and mental well-being.
NameDrop, one of the title features of iOS 17 is also coming, letting you transfer your contact panel between watches and phones. There are also going to be Facetime calls that you can view on the watch screen.
watchOS 9 on the way out
Last year's watchOS 9 update was a very quiet update, with an update to Apple's Sleep app focusing on sleep stages, some updates to the workout app, and some new faces. The biggest news in Apple Watch last year was the Apple Watch Ultra, the company's rugged, all-purpose watch for the outdoors and exploration. Boasting a massive screen and hefty design, the watch has proven immensely popular since its release.
Ahead of the WWDC 2023 event, early rumors strongly suggested that Apple would announce a major overhaul of the watchOS software. Mark Gurman, that font of information, reported in late April that a new focus on widgets would dominate the software, and would mark one of the biggest shifts in watchOS history.
This change would involve new home screens, Gurman suggested, and changes to how you interact with the watch on your wrist. The widgets would combine the old watchOS Glances with the "style of widgets that were introduced in iOS 14 on the iPhone."
What you can do with the buttons would change as well, he suggested, noting that "for the next version of watchOS, Apple may have that the Digital Crown open up widgets instead."
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Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.
Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9