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Apple Watch – is watchOS 10 as good as it gets – it’s certainly the best yet…

As Apple Watch approaches its 10th birthday Apple has tried to breathe a new lease of life into the world’s favourite wearable

Apple Watch and watchOS 10

At a glance

Apple Watch and thus watchOS 10 is hugely important to Apple which explains why it was given a full 15 minutes in a packed keynote event.

As you’ll have gathered from yesterday’s post, over the next few days I am going to pick on certain elements of this week’s WWDC and look at them in-depth to help both you and I take on all the information we gorged on earlier this week – just to make sure we’ve not missed anything.

In the weeks running up to the event we had learned that of all the OS, watchOS was the one that was going to be the most revolutionary.

I’ve been an Apple Watch wearer for just under a year now and it has become an important part of my daily routine. As such, I was keen to see what the next iteration of its operating system was going to bring. In the presentation, Kevin Lynch, Apple’s vice president of Technology said:

“watchOS is the world’s most advanced wearable operating system, and it has redefined how people all over the world think of what a watch can do. watchOS 10 is a major milestone and an energising new approach for Apple Watch, introducing a fresh new design for quickly viewing information, delightful new watch faces, new features for cyclists and hikers, and important tools for health.”

It’s based on playing into the strengths of Apple Watch and leans heavily into widgets & stacks.

On the face of it

The interface looks to have been simplified and focuses on giving the user relevant information quickly. There is a new simple, visual approach to navigation which better utilises the layout of Apple Watch.

Looking at some of the native apps that have been re-engineered for watchOS 10 such as Weather, Maps & Messages it’s clear to see the direction Apple has taken this year – everything seems designed to be more glanceable (is that even a word?)

Smart Stacks

In watchOS 10 turning the Digital Crown brings up Smart Stacks. This is clearly what the pre-event rumours had picked up on when saying we were reverting to something akin to the old Glances – what goes around comes around…

The widgets will train in on the core elements of your day and briefly give you key information. The Calendar, Weather, Podcasts or Reminders widgets will re-arrange themselves to come to the top of the Smart Stack with machine learning helping to keep your day on track. You can create your own Smart Stack and add your favourite complications.

I have pretty much only used one watch face – the GMT face for the past year. The reason is simple – complications. I have podcasts, workouts, camera and battery percentage in each corner. I can access them quickly and simply and this particular watch face allows for that setup. But Smart Stacks will change all that meaning I can have any face I choose and then use this new feature in tandem. Set any face and then turn the crown for my Smart Stacks – yup, I like the sound of that. And by long-pressing the crown you can manually add widgets to your stack. It’ll be interesting to see how developers re-imagine their apps to work best with Smart Stacks.

There will be quicker access to Control Centre by using the side button. From what I can tell, everything about watchOS 10 seems to be designed with ease of access in mind. And speaking of watch faces as I was…

New kids on the block

In watchOS 10 there will be two all-new watch faces.

The Palette face shows the time with a funky, quirky splash of colour whilst the other new watch face is a bit of a throwback – Snoopy & Woodstock come to Apple Watch. The characters will react to your activity, the weather and the clock’s hands.

World Clock gets a neat new feature called Dynamic Colours which will graphically show you the time of the day around the world – useful if you’re planning on the best time to place an international call for instance.

The Activity app has been redesigned and now has corner icons showing your workout summary, sharing or awards – again fitting in with their latest clean design ethos.

Apple Watch 10 has also been developed to focus heavily on some core areas such as Hiking, Cycling, and Visual & Mental Health.

Cycling

Soon, when starting a cycling workout from your watch it’ll show up as a live activity on your iPhone with many of the key elements like Elevation & Heart Rate Zones having been better optimised for clearer, quicker, easier reading. Some other new metrics & algorithms and further, more inclusive Bluetooth connectivity are coming to watchOS 10 and the Cycling app.

Hiking

For regular hikers, there are a couple of new features in watchOS 10 that may be of interest – namely Waypoints.

There are two elements to Waypoints – one will locate the last point of cellular connectivity where you can make calls or check messages and the other is an Emergency Call Waypoint which lets you place an emergency call on any available network.

A few new other bits and bobs like the Elevation view, topographic maps and enhanced search facilities all come to the latest watchOS.

Mindfulness

A far bigger emphasis is placed on mental health in watchOS 10.

This new app will let you log your emotions and mood swings quickly and discreetly. It’s as easy as turning the crown and scrolling through some shapes and colours that best describe how you’re feeling. Once you’ve chosen the feeling that best describes your mood Apple Watch will ask a few simple questions to help machine learning better build up a picture of you and your mental well-being.

Mindfulness works hand-in-glove with the Health App in iOS 17 and iPad 17. In the Health app, you’ll be able to look at possible contributing factors that may be affecting how you’re feeling – maybe you’re not getting enough sleep or not taking enough exercise. The health app will compile a report of all this data which you can choose to pass on to a healthcare expert as a PDF.

All data is kept on device and can only be accessed by you.

Vision

Myopia or nearsightedness is a huge problem globally that can easily lead to severe visual impairment.

One of the simplest ways to reduce the risk of myopia in the young is trying to ensure they get around 100 minutes a day outdoors. By using the ambient light sensors on Apple Watch, watchOS 10 will be able to measure the time spent in daylight.

Also, there will be a new Screen Distance feature coming too that will help check you are not viewing screens or documents too closely. Utilising the TrueDepth sensor it will keep a check that you are reading from a safe distance and will warn you if it detects you are reading at too closer a range.

Namedrop

Of the other new features coming to watchOS 10 NameDrop (which still makes me smile) will allow users to share contact details by bringing their watch close to someone’s iPhone I guess was probably the highlight.

There were some minor improvements to navigation, Medication, Apple Fitness and FaceTime too. You can learn more about those here.

Wrapping up

Whether it was the belts and braces overhaul that had been promised I’m not so sure, but there has clearly been a re-imagined stance taken to Apple Watch and watchOS 10.

There is less need than ever to open apps and everything looks to have been streamlined.

Smart Stacks appeals the most to me as it seems that will open up the watch much more and make it simpler to use.

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