watchOS 10 is upon us – and it will be available to download from 18 September 2023.
While there aren't loads of huge new features in the OS, it's one of the biggest changes in terms of the look and feel of Apple Watch in a long time.
We've had it on our wrists via the developer preview for a few months now, and got to grips with some sizeable changes to the OS.
Here are 10 things you need to know about watchOS 10 – and how to try it for yourself.
> Read our full Apple Watch Series 9 review
When is watchOS 10 out?
watchOS 10 will be officially available from 18 September 2023.
It will launch a few days ahead of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, which land on 22 September.
watchOS 10 will work on all Apple Watch models from Series 4 to Series 9 – as well as both Watch SE and Watch Ultra generations.
Smart Stack widgets
If there's one big theme that sums up watchOS 10, it's a focus on glanceable information. That manifests itself in a couple of ways – but the main being the new Smart Stack widgets.
From any watch face, you simply twist the digital crown to be transported to Smart Stack, which is a Rolodex of widgets that show quick information. Keep scrolling to cycle through the ten widget spots.
Widgets include Apple's own apps such as weather, stocks, workout information, and progress to the ring goals. This will obviously expand once developers start building them, and this should be fairly quick, as it uses the same process as the widgets for iOS.
And the neat trick is that Smart Stack will automatically adjust the presentation of widgets to show the most useful information, at the right time.
What's more, users of Series 9 and Ultra 2 will be able to summon Smart Stack with the new double-tap gesture – and keep tapping to cycle through suggested apps.
Updated design language
The UI has also changed with an app design overhaul. The new language offers more contextual information, as well as a sleek new look. There's no swanky name for it, but new-look apps are built with Swift UI.
The key ingredient to the new design is color. Apple wants to use color to create more glanceable information. If your stocks are down, the screen is red. As you cycle through your ring goals, each ring's details screen is made up of those familiar colors.
On a nerdy level, the SwiftUI apps are built using different templates that resize properly across all Apple Watch models. So we should see developers adopt a familiar design language across their apps, which will make them more glanceable and user-friendly.
This should look even better on Series 9 and Ultra 2, both of which have enjoyed big boosts in screen quality.
watchOS 10 watch faces
It was a quiet WWDC for Apple watch faces, with just two new additions to the line-up in watchOS 10.
And there’s a new Snoopy and Woodstock watch faces, a callback to Mickey/Minnie face on the original watchOS. The weather-reactive animations and other live features do look really cool – and we’re sure this will be a popular option.
And the Palette watch face is another classy-looking animated watch face with changing colors. It uses three colors to represent the passing of time, using a clean design with no added complications.
It's no coincidence that with watchOS 10, Apple launched two faces with no complications. Its message is that with Smart Stack just a twizzle of the crown away, you can use its artistic watch faces without sacrificing crucial information.
The Apple Watch Ultra 2 has also got the brand new Modular Ultra Watch face (above). That improved screen also brings a new Modular Ultra watch face, which can display additional data around the edges of the display, like diving depth or altitude for those who like to cram their screen with stats.
Cycling smarts and FTP
Cycling got a massive update in watchOS 10, with support for Bluetooth-enabled cycling sensors.
Key metrics such as cadence and power can only be determined using sensors on the bike, but if yours are Bluetooth enabled, the Apple Watch can now read the data – and use it within its own performance algorithms.
You can use sensors to enable FTP-powered workouts, with a focus on power zones, which will open the Apple Watch up to a new audience of prosumer cyclists and enthusiasts.
FTP stands for Functional Threshold Power. FTP is a measure of the highest average power output a cyclist can sustain for an extended period of time without fatigue. It is often used as a reference point for setting training zones and evaluating a cyclist's fitness and performance.
During a cycling workout, Apple Watch will also sync with your iPhone to show a range of metrics full screen.
That means you can see data such as speed, distance, time, and those other readouts, such as power, power zone, and cadence, which turns your iPhone into a full-on cycle computer. You can then attach the iPhone to your handle bars to get live data.
After the launch of the Apple Watch Ultra last year, it seemed likely that Apple would try and make it an even more powerful outdoor companion. And we got that in watchOS 10.
The compass app has two cool new features.
First, it will keep tabs on your cellular signal, and drop a compass waypoint for your last known location when your phone was connected to the network. If you need to make a call, you can navigate your way back to that point. It will also show the nearest location for an SOS call, which can be made on any cell network.
The compass app also now shows a very nifty elevation mode, tilting into a 3D mode, which shows the topography of your route gathered from the built-in altimeter.
Speaking of topography, Maps will also now show TOPO maps including waypoints and places of interest. These apps are also searchable and you can navigate from the watch – but it’s US-only for now.
What’s more, the new Maps will also show popular trails, and you can plan routes based on length and elevation.
This one is a developer-focused announcement, but Apple is opening up APIs for developers of workout apps.
It showed a demo of the third-party GolfShot app using the advanced accelerometers and gyroscopes, developed for car crash detection, to track wrist movement through the golf swing, studying hand position and swing speed.
And the TrainingPeaks app will enable users to create training plans, which can be accessed straight from the Apple Watch Workout app.
We're sure there will be scores of these once the wider development community get their hands on the API. And it's one of the most exciting aspects of watchOS 10.
Focus on mental health
Apple is putting a greater focus on mental health – and you can now log moods in the Mindfulness app.
Users can tag their state of mind, and the app can also help identify triggers for particular moods.
Over on the iPhone, you can also take mental health assessments, which can alert predisposition for anxiety and depression – which could prompt people to start a conversation with a professional.
Apple is also leveraging the ambient light sensor on the Apple Watch, which will now track time spent in daylight within Apple Health, as part of a new focus on myopia – a common eye condition.
Targets can also be set in Family Sharing, so you can try and set children targets for spending more time outside.
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