Six Apple Watch features we'd love to see in iPhone 7

Apple has been working on its smartphone for over a decade, and iterating on that work going on eight years. Come this fall, we'll almost certainly see a new generation of iPhone models — let's call them iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, to stick to pattern — and next year, iPhone 7.

The Apple Watch, in contrast, has undergone related but distinct development for just about four years now. It's Apple's signature hardware — but wearable — and more importantly, it's iOS, rethought for the wrist. Jony Ive, Kevin Lynch, and the teams working on the Watch have come up with features that could be, with the proper translations, just as compelling in the hand with your iPhone. Here are our top six we'd love to see brought over from watchOS to iOS this fall and beyond.


iOS 8 brought widgets to Notification Center; some want them on the Lock screen as well, but the security and privacy implication of that much data and interactivity moving from the Touch ID and passcode system could be problematic.

Complications, on the other hand, can provide great informational density with minimal interactivity. Everything you need to see is beyond glance-able — it's glimpse-able. Activity level, next events, and more could all be easily seen, and quickly accessed. They couldn't and shouldn't be as watch-specific as classic complications, but they could and should be the iPhone equivalent — dense bits of information available and accessible right from the Lock screen.

Staged notifications

With notifications on Apple Watch, you first see a "short look" notification that shows you the app icon and a brief bit of information like the sender's name or the type of alert. Then — either a moment later if you keep it elevated or after a tap if you have privacy enabled — it expands into a "long look" that gives you the full message. Sure, the Apple Watch has skin-contact-powered security so that it's sure you're the only one doing the looking, but it would be great if the iPhone 6s could optionally do the same on pick up — short look on Lock screen, raise or tap to get long look.

Night theme

Unlike the iPhone, the Apple Watch interface is based on a black background. It makes sense for the OLED technology used in the Watch display, but it also works great at night, in dark rooms, and in a variety of other circumstances. iBooks already has a night theme. So does Maps. So does the new Apple Watch app for iPhone — presumably to match the Apple Watch. The iPhone doesn't have an OLED display — at least not yet — but either way, a systemwide dark mode would be great.

Force Touch and Taptic Engine

Force Touch makes multitouch multi-dimensional. It lets you not only tap the Apple Watch display or MacBook trackpad, but press firmly into it to trigger a range of different responses. On the Apple Watch, Force Touch is almost exclusively used as a "second click" to bring up context sensitive menus. On the trackpad, it does everything from accelerating zooming to previewing documents, web pages, and maps. The "second-click" functionality would be good enough, but some sort of pervasive pressure sensitivity, especially on the now larger screens? That'd be fantastic. As would the haptic feedback that comes with it...

Digital touch

There's certainly cachet in making Digital Touch an Apple Watch-only feature for now: It creates an exclusive club that you can only join by getting an Apple-made smartwatch. But that same exclusivity could also spread to the iPhone 6s, and make iPhone 6s owners part of the same club. That's the value to Apple. For us, we could have our Friends list on more devices, and be able to sketch and tap on a bigger screen (and under a wider range of conditions). Scaling everything properly might take a little finesse, but Apple's usually pretty good about that.

Clear all notifications

The iPhone has gone years without giving us the ability to clear all alerts from Notification Center. The Apple Watch has given it to us on day one. Yes, it's a massively destructive action protected (somewhat) on Watch OS by requiring Force Touch to activate, but a similar level of intent should be able to be implemented on iOS.

Your wish-list?

Maybe you want the Apple Watch "Friends" app and the sketch and tap communications made available by Digital Touch. Maybe you want those 3D emoji. Maybe you even want stainless steel and gold options, or fancier leather cases. Whatever your wish may be, let me know what it is!

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.