There’s a lot to love about watchOS 10

WatchOS is finally getting a refinement update

The Apple Watch got a lot of love at WWDC 2023 with watchOS 10 thanks to new ways to access information on the main screen, redesigned apps and hiking and biking tools.

While watchOS 10 might not seem as substantial as some leaks suggested, there’s still a lot packed into this update that decreases how much time you need to spend interacting with the wearable, a substantial improvement for the minimalist device. Interacting with the small watch screen has always been a struggle, but roughly eight years later, Apple has learned a lot, and the new version of watchOS puts it into action.

Easier on the eyes

One of the most subtle updates to watchOS is new visual language that helps simplify navigation. Many apps take advantage of the larger displays on recent Apple Watches with more buttons and information easily identifiable at a glance.

Apple has only shown off a few apps with the new designs, but the Activity, Weather and Music apps offer much more detail. The music app even shows album artwork now, a nice touch for the small screen. However, it comes at the expense of the now-playing controls moving to the edge of the display instead of the centre. Time will tell if this is more convenient in the long run.

This year there are new Snoopy watch faces and a fun gradient design that can be custom coloured.

One change that was difficult to notice in the keynote was that the home screen was slightly redesigned. Instead of an endless grid of apps laid out in an ever-expanding honeycomb design, the new screen groups apps together tightly and stacks them vertically, making it much more logical when searching for apps you don’t use often.

Apple also hopes other developers will adopt similar app design languages to help keep watchOS apps feeling cohesive.

One upgrade that seems extremely helpful is the new Smart Stack of widgets. A simple scroll of the digital crown now reveals information that Apple’s machine learning algorithms deem relevant to your day. This means music or podcast controls when you’re listening to something or Reminders as tasks get closer to their due date.

It’s unclear, but it seems like swiping up from the bottom of the display will also open the Smart Stack. In Apple’s press release for WatchOS 10, the company states that the side button now opens Control Center, and clicking the Digital Crown twice opens your recent app selector.

Overall, I like the idea of letting you use any watch face you want, while still being able to access information quickly. It appears convenient and should make interacting with the watch more tailored to the circumstances. For example, often when I’m biking, my music controls don’t come up on my Apple Watch, so the idea of just scrolling with the Digital Crown and opening an app seamlessly is enticing.

Outdoor updates

Speaking of biking, the technology giant has improved the Apple Watches’ ability to interface with bike computers and track cycling workouts overall.

I don’t use a fancy bike computer as a more casual cyclist. Still, with the iOS and watchOS updates in the fall, I can use my iPhone as a quick reference monitor for simple metrics like speed, heart rate, elapsed time, and distance travelled — as long as I’m wearing my Apple Watch.

For hardcore bikers or indoor workout cyclists, watchOS 10 can now connect to Bluetooth-enabled devices to show more specific stats like your cadence, Power Zones and others.

Alongside biking, trekking enthusiasts also have some nice upgrades to look forward to. The Compass app is being updated with even more backtracking functionality. Specifically, it automatically tells you where the last place you had cell service and where you can connect to Apple’s SOS satellite service. Plus, to sweeten the pot, it also tracks and displays the elevation data so you know how much of a climb you might be in for.

In the U.S., for the time being, using Apple Maps on a watch will display elevation and terrain data with more of a focus on hiking trails instead of city-related data. Apple has yet to release specifics, but in the past, U.S.-exclusive Apple Maps features have taken around a year to come to Canada.

Mindfulness level 2

Picking up where the Mindfulness app started in 2021, the latest watchOS update allows users to log their moods and emotions throughout the day to help get precise data about their feelings.

To pair with this, Apple is improving the literature on anxiety and depression in the Health app as another resource to help people in need.

Other health updates revolve around nearsightedness and the Apple Watch to tracking how much time you’ve spent outdoors in daylight. As we get further into the Apple Watches’ lifespan, the health features sometimes appear very niche like this one, but having a convenient way to track information like this can be very helpful for some people.

When can I try it?

Apple has released a developer beta for watchOS 10, but the full public release is this fall. However, anyone looking to try the update out early can download the public beta in July.

watchOS 10 is only coming to the Apple Watch Series 4 and newer.

Image credit: Apple