Apple just introduced WatchOS 10, its next major operating system update for the Apple Watch. The announcement came during Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday. As with previous updates, health, fitness and personalization are among the biggest themes in WatchOS 10.
Apple is updating the Apple Watch’s software with new widgets and redesigned apps to show more information at a glance. Widgets will be able to surface contextual information throughout the day, such as medication reminders or calendar alerts, similar to how they function on the iPhone. This should make it easier to get bits of information without having to launch a full app.
The Apple Watch is also getting two new watch faces: one that’s color-palette themed, and another featuring the Peanuts characters Snoopy and Woodstock.
There will also be more metrics and workout views for cycling, including the ability to show extra statistics when connecting to other Bluetooth-enabled bike sensors. Apple is adding new perks for hikers, too, such as the ability for the Compass app to show the last area where you had cell reception and more details about the topography of hiking trails.
Health is also a focus for WatchOS 10. Apple is adding new mood logging features to the Mindfulness app, which you can access on both the watch and the phone. Apple also says you’ll be able to take standardized assessments often used in clinics to understand more about how you’re feeling.
However, Apple is also using the Apple Watch to help users track eye health, signaling a new type of health measurement for the watch. The Apple Watch’s ambient light sensor can be used measure the amount of time spent in daylight in WatchOS 10, which the company is positioning as a way to maintain eye health and potentially prevent myopia, or nearsightedness caused by physical changes in the eye.
Software updates like these are critical because they bring significant new features to Apple’s smartwatch that expand its functionality without requiring new hardware. Last year in WatchOS 9, for example, Apple introduced new running metrics, the ability to track specific stages of sleep and low power mode. These additions helped the Apple Watch catch up to other sleep tracking wearables and dedicated running watches.
With WatchOS 10, Apple is also the latest smartwatch maker to focus more closely on mental wellness. Fitbit, for example, has added sensors to its Sense smartwatches that can look for signs of stress throughout the day. Watch maker Citizen launched a new smartwatch this year that it says can assess fatigue and alertness levels. The new Mindfulness features in WatchOS 10 suggest Apple is also thinking more deeply about the correlation between physical and mental wellness, too.
Apple typically previews new software for major products like the Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad and Mac at its annual conference before debuting them in the fall.
The Apple Watch is the most popular smartwatch in the world with 26% of the global market as of the first quarter of 2023, according to Counterpoint Research. Over the last several years, Apple has introduced new features and hardware meant to make its watch more competitive with dedicated running watches from companies like Garmin. Last year, for example, it debuted the Apple Watch Ultra, its first rugged watch designed with athletes and adventurers in mind. The updates to hiking and cycling seem to fit nicely with that theme.