It’s WWDC time again, which means Apple is showing off the new features in its suite of operating systems — including, this year, a huge update for the software that powers Apple Watch. Currently available in beta and expected to launch later this year, watchOS 10 boasts lots of new features, including enhanced watch faces, more useful mental health apps, and offline maps.
Before you get too excited, check if your Apple Watch will get watchOS 10 this fall, because Apple will only be releasing the update to devices paired with phones running iOS 17. This means that you’ll need an iPhone XS, iPhone XR, or newer devices to get watchOS 10 — oh, and an Apple Watch Series 4 (or newer), of course.
Here are the best new watchOS 10 features to watch for:
Smart Stack enhances your watch face
Smart Stack is a fundamental feature of watchOS 10. It allows you to access important information such as the currently playing song, weather, activity stats, etc. directly from the watch face. In older versions of watchOS, you’d have to press the side button to access some of this information; in watchOS 10, you can rotate the Digital Crown directly from the watch face to see it. Smart Stack also adapts to your usage to prioritise relevant information.
A new way to open Control Centre
On watchOS 10, you can open the Control Centre by pressing the side button. This feels like a much more reliable way to access it than swiping up on a tiny display.
Apple’s own apps such as Weather, Messages, Maps, and others will use more of your Apple Watch’s display in watchOS 10. On a device where screen real estate is precious, it only makes sense to use every available millimetre of it.
New watch faces
watchOS 10 adds fun new watch faces called Palette and Snoopy. The former shows time in different colours and overlapping layers, while the latter brings everyone’s favourite Peanuts characters to the Apple Watch.
Improvements for cycling workouts
Cyclists will enjoy the new metrics that watchOS 10 can track. A new view called Power Zones will allow you to track the intensity of your cycling workout, which is great for effort-based training. You can also automatically connect your Apple Watch to Bluetooth-enabled cycling accessories that can measure your cadence, speed, and power. There’s also a new live activity for your iPhone that makes it easy to see cycling metrics on the phone during your ride.
Don’t have an Apple Watch yet? Need a new one? watchOS 10 will be compatible with Apple Watch Series 4 devices and newer, paired with iPhone Xs or later (running iOS 17).
Enhanced hiking workouts
With watchOS 10, the Compass app will be able to generate a few useful waypoints such as Last Cellular Connection. This will allow you to trace your route to the last place where you had cellular reception. You’ll also see a nicer 3D view of saved waypoints, and in the U.S., you’ll also be able to see a topographic map of hikes showing hill shading, points of interest, and elevation data.
Log your mental health
watchOS 10 will allow you to log mental health data. The Mindfulness app will let you record your state of mind, and you can go to the Health app on your iPhone to see how your mental health corresponds with your activity levels. This could help you find parallels between exercise levels and your mood.
There’s another new feature that checks ambient light levels and encourages you to spend more time in daylight. This can benefit physical and mental health, but the feature has also been designed to promote better vision health. Spending more time in daylight can reduce the risk of myopia, and this feature can help you track if you’re on course to avoid this vision impairment.
NameDrop is coming to the Apple Watch too
A new iOS 17 feature — NameDrop — that allows you to bring your iPhone close to another iPhone to quickly exchange contact information is also coming to Apple Watch, with watchOS 10, will also support the same feature. You can bring the Apple Watch close to another Apple Watch or an iPhone to use this feature.
Group FaceTime Audio
watchOS 10 adds support for group FaceTime Audio calls on the Apple Watch. You can also preview video messages left via FaceTime, directly on the Apple Watch.
Better navigation with Apple Maps
You’ll be able to download maps on Apple Maps for offline navigation. This a companion feature for Apple Maps on iOS 17, which supports offline maps. Offline navigation is pretty useful to save battery or when network is unavailable or spotty.