Apple Watch features I want to see in WatchOS 10

In the years since its launch, the Apple Watch has grown into an all-around fitness tracker and a useful smartphone companion. But there are a number of ways Apple could make it even more useful in both areas, and I hope to hear more about how Apple is doing just that at its Worldwide Developers Conference.

The Apple Watch already has a number of exercise options and can measure more health data than I personally know what to do with. Yet it still lags behind its competitors when it comes to providing insights related to sleep and workout recovery. Fitness aside, I’d like to see more UI changes that make it easier to get information quickly without requiring multiple taps and swipes.

Apple rarely discusses products or updates before formally announcing them, but traditionally introduces new features for the Apple Watch at its developer conference. Software updates have become even more important to the Apple Watch in recent years, bringing updates that are arguably more significant than the new hardware, such as more running metrics and low-power modes.

But there’s plenty of opportunity to further refine the Apple Watch software, especially by making more sense out of all the health data it can collect.

Sleep chronotypes

Apple Watch Series 8 next to the Oura ring on a blue background

The Oura ring can tell if you’re a morning person or a night person, unlike the Apple Watch

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Your Apple Watch can show you how long you slept and how much time you spent in specific sleep stages, such as deep and REM sleep. But brands like Oura and Citizen aim to take it a step further by issuing a chronotype based on your sleep patterns and other data.

The term chronotype refers to whether your body has a natural preference for morning or evening. Oura measures this by analyzing your activity, sleep-wake cycle and body temperature; while Citizen analyzes sleep data and alertness scores (which are generated after running a test in the app).

I don’t expect Apple to mimic this exact approach, but it would be good to see more insights into how sleep patterns tie into my overall energy levels throughout the day. There’s a lot more that Apple could do when it comes to sleep tracking in general. While the introduction of sleep stage tracking was a much-needed addition last year, I’d also like to see a type of sleep score that summarizes the quality of my rest at a glance.

Recovery metrics

The Apple Watch is effective at getting me moving, maybe a little too much. I am obsessed with closing at least one business loop on a daily basis. But as I’ve written in the past, the Apple Watch could use more features aimed at workout recovery.

Apple Watch Series 7 showing activity tracker and motion rings

The Apple Watch’s activity rings motivate me to move. Now I just need a reminder to take a break.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Your Apple Watch can encourage you to relax, go to bed on time, or start moving when you’ve been inactive for too long. However, it has no meaningful insight into how much rest you might need after a hard workout or a night of inadequate sleep.

Oura, Whoop, and Fitbit all offer some kind of recovery metric that helps you figure out if you’re ready for a big workout or need to rest someday. They generally do this by looking at data on sleep, activity, and heart rate variability among other factors. In the past, scores like these have helped me shake off the guilt that comes with skipping a workout on days when I don’t feel up to it.

More customizable activity goals

My exercise routine and activity levels vary from day to day depending on how rested I am, my workload, whether I’m going to the office, and other factors. I wish I could adjust my activity goals to match. While you can easily change your activity goals by simply tapping the “Change Goals” button at the bottom of the activity summary on your watch, there’s no way to customize it by day. For example, I’d like to set a goal higher on days when I know I’m going to have more steps (such as days I work from the office) and times when I’m usually well rested (the weekend) and lower it otherwise ( i.e. my work from home days).

More QWERTY keyboard support

The Apple Watch Series 7 looked very similar to the Series 6 when I reviewed it in 2021. But there’s one feature that debuted on the Series 7 that I miss when I move up to older watches: the QWERTY keyboard. Yes, I know that typing on such a small screen seems like more trouble than it’s worth, but hear me out.

There are many times when I would like to quickly reply to a text message without picking up the phone, such as when I’m waiting for the elevator at the office and the phone is hidden in my purse, during a run, or when my phone is on the other end of the room. The QWERTY keyboard has surprisingly become my favorite way to fire off a quick text under those circumstances.

The Apple Watch Series 7 with the on-screen keyboard against a purple background

The Apple Watch Series 7 keyboard

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

The QWERTY keyboard is currently available on Apple Watch Series 7, Series 8 and Ultra because these watches have larger screens. While the larger screen certainly makes tapping and swiping easier, I could imagine the keyboard fits perfectly on the 44mm version of older Apple Watches. It’s the one feature I really miss when going back to an older watch like the Series 6. After all, even the Pixel Watch, which has a relatively small screen, has an on-screen keyboard.

Additional uses for the temperature sensor

Apple Watch Series 8 and iPhone with Health app showing temperature readings

Your temperature reading is displayed in the Health app. The readings are relative, so you’ll only see increases or decreases, not absolute numbers.

Scott Stein/CNET

Apple debuted overnight temperature sensing in the Apple Watch Series 8 and Ultra. At the moment, the technology is mainly used to provide back estimates of ovulation and improved period predictions. You can also view changes in your wrist’s nighttime temperature in Apple’s Health app, though there’s really no way to make sense of those numbers.

Apple should explore other ways to tie temperature data to new metrics. Oura, for example, uses temperature as a factor in determining the aforementioned readiness score. While I don’t expect Apple to clone exactly what other gadget makers do, it would be interesting to see it somehow tie temperature readings to other insights.

Ahead of the arrival of the Apple Watch Series 8 and Ultra last year, Bloomberg reported that the Series 8 would be able to detect fever. We haven’t seen such a feature yet, but if Bloomberg’s report is accurate, it suggests that Apple is definitely thinking about future use cases.

An updated interface

The Apple Watch has been around for almost a decade. While Apple has made many changes and additions to the software over the years, the overall user interface remains the same. You still have two options for viewing apps, in a list or in a honeycomb format. Many interactions come in the form of responding to a notification, tapping an app, or prompting or dictating a request through Siri.


Apple Watch SE (2022)

In 2023 it’s time for a change. It’s not yet determined exactly what this change is, but I’d like to see any improvements that make it easier to get things done with fewer taps and swipes. I also think the software could be more proactive. Imagine if your watch could suggest new personalized dials decorated with complications based on your usage habits? The iPhone has gotten better at surfacing apps, contacts, and other content intuitively, and I’d like to see more of that infused into the Apple Watch software as well.

Bloomberg reports that some changes may actually be coming to WatchOS 10. An April report says Apple is planning a big update that will make widgets a core part of the operating system, aiming to make it easier to view information at a glance. ‘eye.

Apple has already solved many things with the Apple Watch software; it’s one of the reasons it’s the most popular smartwatch in the world. But additions like these could make it even easier to use making it a more capable wellness tracker.

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