While Apple has yet to confirm anything, we can pretty safely expect that it will announce the watchOS 11 update in June and then spend the next few months honing it, ready for the big release in or around September. It's a pattern that the company has followed for years now, and it's one that we very much expect it to follow in 2024 as well. But what will watchOS 11 have to offer?
That's the big question in a year that will mark the Apple Watch's 10th birthday. To date, software rumors have been hard to come by, although we've been told to expect something akin to the Apple Watch X.
Here, we're going to run through what Apple brought to the party in its last big update and then move on to what we think will arrive in this one. We'll also be updating this piece to reflect the latest rumors as well. With the Apple Watch's 10th birthday expected to see the wearable benefit from a big new hardware update, it remains to be seen whether there will be a similarly big software boost to go alongside it.
The story so far
When Apple released watchOS 10 on September of 2023 it brought with it a number of new features. As is so often the case with big software updates, some of those features were bigger than others. But some were definitely notable.
The watchOS 10 update brought a new look to almost all of Apple's apps, making better use of the display space and making the apps feel faster than ever. A new Smart Stack was also added when rotating the Digital Crown, bringing widgets to the Apple Watch in a whole new way.
Apple also chose to change the way Control Center is launched by making it available from a press of the side button, while new watch faces were added as has become the norm. The usual workout improvements were added, while mental health additions saw mood logging brought to the Apple Watch.
watchOS 11: Rumored features
watchOS 11: A focus on AI
While it hasn't been explicitly mentioned to date, we can likely expect the watchOS 11 update to bring some improvements to Siri based on leaks relating to iOS 18 in particular. Rumors suggest that Apple is working on a new Large Language Model-equipped update that will make Siri more responsive and more useful, something that has been long overdue.
If this is the case we may well see Siri on the Apple Watch grow to become a more capable way of interacting with apps and information without needing to reach for the screen. That alone might make it easier for people to leave their iPhones at home, too.
watchOS 11: RCS support
Another feature that is likely to come from iOS 18 is RCS support. Apple has already confirmed that it bring RCS to the iPhone in 2024, although a firm timeframe for the release has so far gone unconfirmed. That suggests that iOS 18 will be the delivery mechanism for RCS, and with Apple Watches also supporting SMS functionality we can expect watchOS 11 to follow suit.
RCS is a replacement for the old SMS system and will allow rich text messaging and media transmission with Android devices in particular, making iMessage less of an important feature for many.
watchOS 11: What we'd like to see
In terms of watchOS 11 wishlists, there's only one big addition that many would like to see — third-party watch faces.
The screen that everyone sees the majority of the time on their Apple Watch is the watch face, and the lack of any meaningful way to customize it beyond colors and complications seems like a missed opportunity. It's been that way since 2014 and the fact we're still waiting a decade later is a huge disappointment.
As much as it seems unlikely Apple will add third-party watch faces at this point, it doesn't hurt to dream.
watchOS 11: Expected release date
Apple has found itself in a release cadence that sees it announce new software at WWDC in June and then make it available to customers in September and that's very likely to be the case in 2024, too.
Apple is expected to unveil watchOS 11 alongside iOS 18, iPadOS 18, macOS 15, and tvOS 18 at WWDC before rolling out public and developer beta programs that run for the subsequent four months. If it follows its own pattern the new updates will ship alongside updated Apple Watches in September, too.
watchOS 11: Compatible devices
We can of course expect the watchOS 11 update to be compatible with all the best Apple Watches, but we don't expect that you will have to buy a new wearable to get it. The watchOS 10 update is compatible with the Apple Watch Series 4 or later as well as the Apple Watch SE and Apple Watch Ultra models.
As for watchOS 11, it's possible that may need to drop support for some older models, but that will very much depend on which new features will be added this year. Depending on what those changes are, the new software might not require any more GPU or CPU horsepower than the outgoing watchOS 10.
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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.