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watchOS 10 is bringing back widgets in a big way

watchOS 10 is bringing back widgets in a big way


After a lot of wearable hardware updates in 2022, Apple’s focusing on software.

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Render of Apple Watch showing various screens of watchOS 10
watchOS 10 brings back widgets and adds Snoopy to its watchface collection.
Image: Apple

Apple announced watchOS 10, its “milestone” next-gen smartwatch platform, today at WWDC. As in past years, it’ll be available for developers to start tinkering with today, while a public beta is expected sometime next month. Users can expect to see the final version arrive later this fall alongside the forthcoming Apple Watch Series 9.

Widgets are back on the menu, friends. Turning the digital crown will bring up your widget stack and let you scroll through for quick and easy access to information. It’s a major shift in how users have thus far interacted with the Apple Watch and is reminiscent of the Siri watchface introduced a few years ago in watchOS 3.

Apple Watch apps — including Weather, Stocks, Home, Maps, Messages, and World Clock — are also getting a more glanceable look. In essence, apps will be able to show you more information that utilizes the entirety of the watch’s display.

Widgets Smart stacks
How widgets will appear in watchOS 10.
Image: Apple

Another shift is how users will use the watch’s buttons. Currently, pressing the digital crown launches the honeycomb app grid or the app list, depending on how you’ve configured your watch. Control Center can also be accessed using the side button, while double-clicking the crown will bring you back to recently used apps.

It’s not a watchOS update without new watchfaces. This year, we’re getting a new Palette watchface as well as a new one featuring Snoopy and Woodstock. The Palette watchface is similar to what we’ve seen before, with the main difference being that it uses three overlapping layers of color that shift as time passes.

For health updates, mental health is also getting the spotlight in watchOS 10 with the ability to log your moods in the Mindfulness app. Turning the crown allows you to scroll through emotions represented by abstract shapes. You’ll also be able to take standardized assessment quizzes in the Health app to determine your risk level for anxiety and depression and then create a PDF to share with your doctor. The Health app will also let you see how lifestyle factors like sleep or exercise may be contributing to your state of mind.

Render of iPhone showing Cycling views next to Apple Watch
Cycling will be available as a live activity on your iPhone, enabling you to make workout views full-screen for easier viewing should you choose to mount your phone.
Image: Apple

On the fitness front, Apple is also adding new cycling features. For starters, there are new workout views, which include custom workouts, race routes, elevation, and cycling speed views. Cycling can also be viewed as a live activity on your iPhone in the event that you want to mount your phone on a bike. When tapped, you’ll get a full-screen look at various workout views. Bluetooth-enabled cycling accessories like power meters, speed sensors, and cadence sensors will also be able to automatically connect to the watch. That’ll enable new metrics like cycling power and RPM. If you use a power meter, watchOS 10 will also display Functional Threshold Power — or the highest level of intensity you can maintain for an hour.

Hikers will get to view trails and trailhead info directly from the wrist. That includes information like trail length, type, and difficulty. Thanks to the altimeter, you’ll also be able to view a new 3D map of your waypoints. Some new waypoints include the last place you had cell data and the last place you can make an emergency call using any carrier’s network. US users will also get topographic maps, which feature contour lines, hill shading, elevation details, and points of interest. On the iPhone, you’ll also get access to offline maps for turn-by-turn navigation and estimated time of arrival. These offline maps will be viewable on paired Apple Watches. These are big updates for Apple Watch Ultra users, as it closes the gap with maps you’ll find on watches from Garmin.

US users will also be able to access topographical maps in watchOS 10.
US users will also be able to access topographical maps in watchOS 10.
Image: Apple

One fitness feature that went under the radar is custom Fitness Plus plans. Subscribers will get new workout and meditation schedules based on day, duration, and workout type. Apple is also taking a page from Peloton’s book by including Stacks — which let you take multiple workouts or meditations back-to-back — as well as the ability to tweak audio mix. For instance, if you want to focus on the instructor’s voice, you can decrease the music volume.

Vision is also getting added to the Health app. The Apple Watch can now measure how much time you spend in daylight via the ambient light sensor. Parents will also be able to view how much time their kids are spending outside via Family Setup. The Health app will also track screen distance — how far away you’re holding an iPhone or iPad — using the TrueDepth camera. If you hold it closer than 12 inches for an extended period of time, you’ll receive a notification. Both mental health and vision health data will be encrypted on the app. The Medications app will also get a minor update. If you don’t take your medications within 30 minutes of the scheduled time, you’ll get a follow-up reminder.

Render of someone using NameDrop for watchOS 10
You’ll be able to use the Apple Watch for NameDrop.
Image: Apple

watchOS 10 also ties into some other features that Apple introduced in iOS 17. For instance, you’ll be able to use NameDrop by bringing your watch closer to another person’s iPhone or by tapping the Share button in My Card within the Contacts app. My Card will also be available as a complication. You’ll also be able to play back FaceTime video messages from the wrist, and Group FaceTime audio will be supported on the Apple Watch, too.

It’s not surprising that Apple is focusing on software updates for its smartwatches in 2023. Last year featured not one but three new Apple Watches, so it’s not really time for another massive hardware overhaul, and rumor has it MicroLED Apple Watches won’t arrive until 2024 or 2025. Plus, Series watches have been getting incremental hardware updates for ages now — we don’t yet know whether the Ultra will be updated yearly, and the budget second-gen SE is less than a year old.

watchOS 10 will be available in the fall for the Series 4 or later.