Apple Watch features I really thought we’d have before watchOS 10

watchOS 10 is just days away, and the update seems like a big deal for big Apple Watch screens. A new overlay of widgets and apps optimized for Apple Watch Ultra? Let’s go!

However, not much else has been said for watchOS 10, likely because the Apple Watch software is quite mature now. It turns out that you can knock out a lot of great features in nine years. This got me thinking about some pretty old feature requests that never materialized features that I really thought we’d have by now.

Check your notifications

Apple Watch notifications should be opt-in, not opt-out, and all or nothing. There’s a toggle to turn on alerts for all apps. There is no button for turning off alerts for all apps. The best solution requires you to go through a list of switches for each app installed on your iPhone. Even if you turn them all off, you need to remember to manually turn off clock alerts for future app installations.

The current model assumes that if an app can notify your iPhone, you’ll want to notify your Apple Watch while you’re wearing it instead. Saving most iPhone app alerts lets you use your Apple Watch for what you consider VIP app alerts. Only the important things touch your wrist.

Custom tones

When I posted my review of the first Apple Watch eight years ago, I was pretty optimistic about one feature I considered missing: setting custom alert tones for different contacts. I wrote this in 2015, not knowing it would still be relevant in 2023:

You can turn sounds on or off, but you can’t customize tones for specific alerts. On my iPhone, I have a different tone if my girlfriend or mom texts me, so I know I should read it soon. Apple Watch has the same tone and tap for all messages from all contacts. This is kind of a setback functionally for me, but hopefully this changes in future software updates.

…hopefully this changes in future software updates. Ouch.

Seriously, does anyone else want this feature? Even if you aren’t interested in setting tones for different contacts, I’m sure people would like the option to change tones for message alerts. At the very least, Mail and Messages could use two different sounds.

I know this point is moot since most people keep their Apple Watch deactivated. It’s strange to me that setting ringtones, text tones, and mail notification sounds hasn’t arrived in watchOS yet.

Using the watch during a phone call

with watchOS 10 around the corner, I’m starting to see myself telling my great-grandkids about it one day. If you’re making a phone call from your watch, you can’t exit the Phone app. Well, you can, but you have to hang up first. This was a strange limitation when the 3 Series was new. Frankly, I was surprised and didn’t see the situation unchanged when the 4 Series came out. Quoting myself from 2018:

After a full year of being able to make phone calls on Apple Watch without an iPhone nearby, you still can’t leave the Phone app during a call.

I’m not sure how time works anymore, but somehow this was still a glaring omission for me two years ago:

Imagine using your iPhone and not being able to check your calendar or email to refer to anything relevant to your call. We’d all laugh if our iPhones asked us to end a phone call before switching to another app. This is exactly the state of watchOS today. Will WatchOS 8 next week change that? Maybe 5G will save us all.

What can I say? Will WatchOS 10 next week change that? If it did, it would be like Weather app on the iPad great. Maybe bigger than Instagram for iPad. The answer to the problem has always been to just use an iPhone.

Just knowing that this limitation exists on the watch makes it needlessly inferior as a voice communicator. Honestly, it looks like a dial up connection. You can use your phone or you can use the internet. You can’t do both.

View alerts on iPhone

Most notifications come from the iPhone and are mirrored to the Apple Watch. If you check the alerts on your lock screen and Notification Center, you might not be in the habit of checking for missed notifications on your watch. It’s more in line with how I use my watch these days.

The problem is that there are select alerts that come from the Apple Watch. These are not mirrored to the iPhone. The mirror is one sided. Phone to look at: great. Look on the phone: no. Alerts in this category include occasional new watch faces, new activity challenges, or new watchOS updates.

Most common are activity sharing notifications. If you don’t have an Apple Watch, Activity Sharing notifications will appear on iPhone starting in iOS 16. If you have an Apple Watch, however, your phone won’t display Fitness notifications.

Will watchOS 10 address any of these feature requests that have spanned the life of the Apple Watch category? It wouldn’t be a watchOS update if it didn’t ignore custom tones and using the clock during a phone call! Of course, I’d like to be surprised by any of these changes in watchOS 10.

And you? Is there a feature request you’ve had for years that hasn’t been addressed yet? Share your ideas with us in the comments.

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