Apple has given us the first official look at watchOS 10, the software that will arrive on your current Apple Watch — and the next versions to be announced — later in 2023.
The software has been shown off on stage at this year’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC 2023) keynote, with various features being highlighted during the presentation. So what’s new?
New look for apps and widgets
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Apple’s watchOS 10 is getting a significant visual update, with most of the commonly accessed standard apps being redesigned — including the Weather app, Stocks, Messages, World Clock, the Apple Maps app, and the main Phone app. The Activity app will be redesigned with new sharing features, more Apple Fitness+ integration, and a better-looking trophy case.
If you use Smart Stack to organize widgets on your iPhone, this same feature is coming to the Apple Watch, allowing you to stack key widgets together on the watch face. You twist the Digital Crown to view the different widgets, and the way they are organized will be dynamic, meaning in the morning, the weather widget will appear first, and the calendar will move to the top when you have an upcoming meeting.
New watch faces, including Snoopy
There are various new watch faces in watchOS 10. The Smart Stack widget will get its own watch face, which will use the same depth view as Portrait watch faces, plus there’s one called Palette, which shows time in an unusual and very colorful way.
But perhaps the best new watch face is the introduction of two new characters — Snoopy and Woodstock. The Peanuts characters join Mickey Mouse and the Toy Story family on the Apple Watch and will interact with the hands on the watch face, react to the weather, and even motivate you when you start a workout.
Cycling, golf, and tennis modes
Apple has enhanced its fitness tracking feature for cyclists in watchOS 10. It now takes data from your power, heart rate, and motion to generate a Functional Threshold Power (FTP) score, plus it shows how long you stay in a personalized heart rate zone, called Power Zones, helping you improve your performance on a bike.
watchOS 10 connects with Bluetooth bike sensors, and if you use your iPhone attached to a handlebar mount, there’s a new Live Activity widget mirroring all the data the Apple Watch is collecting. It’s either minimized as a running timer or can be expanded into a full-screen view. Look out for new data on cadence and speed too.
The golf and Tennis modes will also be improved, where the Apple Watch will be able to track rapid changes in direction and speed, and this data can be accessed by developers to improve gold and tennis modes.
Apple Maps improvements
The Apple Maps app will also see an update with a new topographic view with elevation, waypoints, and a search feature. You’ll also be able to review information about hiking routes before you leave, including information on the difficulty, elevation, and distance. The topographic map will first be available in the U.S., with other regions to follow. If you use Maps on your iPhone, its offline features — navigation, arrival time, places, and more — will be available on the Apple Watch with watchOS 10.
For hikers, the compass app has been improved to show new waypoints. The first marks the spot where you last had cellular connectivity, so you can head back should you need it, while a second marker sets the point where you can make SOS calls using any carrier, not just your own. Additionally, the compass view will be available in a 3D view.
Mental health and Mindfulness
With iOS 17, Apple is concentrating on mental health and helping you reflect on your state of mind, and this is also being integrated into watchOS 10. You’ll be able to log your emotions and daily mood through the Apple Watch’s Mindfulness app. You choose shapes and words to match how you feel, made using gestures with the Digital Crown, and the app shares the same familiar design as the Mindfulness app.
What’s interesting is Apple will introduce personal assessments usually used in clinics, where you can enter details and see your own risk of treatable conditions like depression. What’s more, it will guide you to resources to help out based on your risk. This will also be part of the Health app on the iPhone with iOS 17.
The Apple Watch will be used in an unusual way to help reduce the risk of myopia, or nearsightedness, in children. The Apple Watch will use the ambient light sensor to measure the amount of time kids spend in daylight, which is important to help avoid the onset of myopia. If your child doesn’t have an iPhone, the data is visible in the Family Sharing app.
It’s also going to help better judge the distance between you and a device’s screen. A warning will appear on an iPhone and iPad that suggests moving further back from it if it senses you’re too close, again helping reduce the risk of eye strain and problems later in life.
Everything else new in watchOS 10
The NameDrop feature from iOS 17 will also be a part of watchOS 10, where a simple tap of the Share button will send your personal contact sheet to an iPhone or another Apple Watch, making it fast and easy to share contact details.
The FaceTime app gets Apple Watch support, where you can watch video messages on the watch’s screen and also take part in FaceTime Audio calls too. An update to the Medications app will send a reminder if you haven’t confirmed an action, like taking a pill, after 30 minutes, while Apple Fitness+ will get Custom Plans.
watchOS 10 will be released later this year
Apple’s watchOS 10 will be available to developers from June 5, with a public beta version arriving in July. The final public version will be out in the fall. Your iPhone will need to run iOS 17 if you want to install watchOS 10 on your Apple Watch.