If you followed our WWDC 2023 live blog, you know WatchOS 10 will be BIG. A slew of new features is coming to Apple Watches, including a more robust cycling mode, hiking mode updates, topographic maps, new watch faces, mental health support, updated widget view and more! Better still, all Apple Watches, all the way back to the Apple Watch Series 4, are supported by the new software update.
Apple says WatchOS 10 is a "milestone update for Apple Watch," and we tend to agree, although we're holding fire on declaring it the most significant wearable software update until we can try it. Somewhat overshadowed by the announcement of several exciting hardware launches by the Cupertino-based tech company, WatcOS 10 is nevertheless an exciting development for lovers of the best Apple Watches.
Below, you'll find info about the upcoming Apple Watch update, as well as some commentary and helpful links to other articles going into more detail about WatchOS 10. In case you're interested, we also covered the news about the upcoming iPhone operating system, iOS 17.
[UPDATE July 2023: Apple rolled out the Public Beta version of WatchOS 10 Beta, now available for download. To find out how to install it on your Apple Watch, check out our short explainer below.]
What's WatchOS 10?
WatchOS 10 is the latest version of Apple's operating system for the Apple Watch. It's a wrist-sized iteration of iOS, the company's smartphone operating system. The first WatchOS was released on 24 April 2015, along with the original Apple Watch. WatchOS 10 is said to be the most significant overhaul of the wearable operating system since it was launched.
When is WatchOS 10 out?
The developer beta of watchOS 10 is available to Apple Developer Program members starting 5 June 2023. A public beta will be available to watchOS users in July. WatchOS 10 will be available as a free software update in fall/autumn 2023.
How to get WatchOS 10 on your Apple Watch?
watchOS 10 will be available this fall as a free software update for Apple Watch Series 4 or later paired with iPhone Xs or later, running iOS 17. Some features may not be available in all regions or all languages, or on all devices. You can also update your Apple Watch software by checking for updates in the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. For more information, visit Apple's update your Apple Watch guide (external link).
What Apple watches will get WatchOS 10?
The new Apple Watch 9, which will most likely get announced in September 2023 at the annual Apple Event, will probably be the first Apple Watch to get the WatchOS 10 treatment. However, previous Apple Watch iterations, including the Apple Watch Series 8, Apple Watch Series 7, and Apple Watch Ultra, will also likely receive an operating system update not long after. We expect to see all Apple Watch iterations, all the way back to the Apple Watch 4, to get WatchOS 10.
How to install WatchOS 10 Public Beta on your Apple Watch
Apple released the WatchOS 10 Public Beta on 12 July 2023, and is now available to install on compatible Apple Watches. To install, you need to sign up for Apple's Beta program (you can do it here) and go to Watch>General>Software Update on your iPhone. Please note: Apple Watch Beta software requires you to update your iPhone first.
WatchOS 10: New features
New design language and navigation
There have been a lot of rumours circulating around the redesign of the user interface of the Apple Watch, and indeed, WatchOS 10 introduces some changes the wearable presents information. Spolier alert: the Digital Crown will play a pivotal role in operating the watch going forward.
One of the biggest updates to the watch faces is the new Smart Stack feature. It contains widgets that display timely information that adapts to the user’s context and can be revealed with a simple turn of the Digital Crown from any watch face. "Smart Stack also enables users to enjoy a beautiful watch face, like Portraits, while still offering a way to quickly access information they care about," Apple explains.
For example, at the beginning of the day, Weather will show the forecast, or, when traveling, the Smart Stack will show boarding passes from Wallet. Calendar and Reminders will reshuffle to the top to display upcoming meetings or tasks, and apps that are running, such as Podcasts, will also move up so they are readily available.
WatchOS 10 will be huge for cyclists, similar to how WatchOS 9 brought along impressive updates for runners. The new software update offers advanced new metrics, views, and experiences. We'll quote Apple verbatim below, as the company created an excellent, informative explainer of the new cycling features coming to an Apple Watch near you.
When a cycling workout is started from Apple Watch in watchOS 10, it will automatically show up as a Live Activity on iPhone and, when tapped, will utilise the full screen. Workout Views, such as Heart Rate Zones, Elevation, Race Route, Custom Workouts, and a new Cycling Speed view, have been optimised for the display size of an iPhone, which can be mounted to a bike for convenient, easy viewing during a ride.
Apple Watch can now automatically connect to Bluetooth-enabled cycling accessories, such as power meters, speed sensors, and cadence sensors. This enables brand-new metrics, including cycling power (watts) and cadence (RPM), and additional Workout Views, including Power Zones. Bluetooth connection is supported for Indoor and Outdoor cycling workouts, as well as GymKit.
New algorithms combining sensor data from Apple Watch and connected power meters can estimate Functional Threshold Power (FTP), the highest level of cycling intensity that a rider could theoretically maintain for an hour. Using FTP, Apple Watch calculates personalised Power Zones, used to easily see the current zone and track how long is spent in each, which is an effective and popular way of improving performance.
Hiking and topographic maps
Hikers will also benefit from the WatchOS 10 update in a big way. There are two significant updates to speak of: the new Compass waypoints and added topographic maps.
With watchOS 10, Compass automatically generates two new waypoints. A Last Cellular Connection Waypoint will estimate the last place with cellular reception, which may be helpful in checking messages or making a call. In case of emergencies, a Last Emergency Call Waypoint will estimate where on the route their device had the last connection to any available carrier’s network so that an emergency call can be made.
When preparing routes, a new Elevation view uses altimeter data, offering a three-dimensional view of saved waypoints. And starting in the U.S., Apple Maps displays a new topographic map featuring contour lines, hill shading, elevation details, and points of interest. Users can also search for nearby trails and trailheads with place cards that include detailed information, like trail length, type, and difficulty.
Apple is clearly making an effort to connect all their services into one seamless unit by combining navigation with maps and more. We can't wait to try the new topo maps on our Apple Watch Ultra!
With the Mindfulness app in watchOS 10, you can discreetly and conveniently log your emotions and moods. By turning the Digital Crown, you can scroll through "engaging, multidimensional shapes" to choose how you are feeling, select what is having the "biggest impact on you, and describe your feelings."
Additionally, depression and anxiety assessments often used in clinics are now easily accessible in the Health app and can help you determine your risk level, connect to resources available in your region, and create a PDF to share with your doctor.
WatchOS 10 also introduces the ability to measure time spent in daylight using the ambient light sensor. You can view this information in the Health app on your iPhone or iPad.
Viewing something like a device or a book too closely has also been documented as myopia (nearsightedness) risk factor. The new Screen Distance feature uses the same TrueDepth camera that powers Face ID in iPad and iPhone to "encourage users to move their device farther away" after holding it closer than 12 inches for an extended period of time.
- The Activity app on Apple Watch and the Fitness app on iPhone now has full-screen views of the different rings that show more details. Improvements have been made to sharing, a redesigned trophy case, and Apple Fitness+ trainer tips.
- Control Center is now accessible using the side button, making it easy to quickly open it at any time over any app. A double-click of the Digital Crown reverts back to any apps used recently.
- NameDrop allows users to easily share contact information by bringing Apple Watch close to someone else’s iPhone. Apple Watch users can also use NameDrop by tapping the Share button in My Card in the Contacts app or by tapping the My Card watch face complication and then bringing Apple Watch face-to-face with someone else’s Apple Watch.
- Offline maps on iPhone provide access to turn-by-turn navigation, estimated time of arrival, places in Maps, and more while away from Wi-Fi or cellular services. These features can also be used on a paired Apple Watch that is in range of its companion iPhone.
- Users can now initiate playback of a FaceTime video message and view it directly on Apple Watch. Additionally, Group FaceTime audio is now supported on Apple Watch.
- The Medications app can send follow-up reminders if a medication hasn’t been logged 30 minutes after the scheduled time.
- Apple Fitness+ introduces Custom Plans, a new way to receive a custom workout or meditation schedule based on day, duration, workout type, and more. Stacks, which allows users to select multiple workouts and meditations to do seamlessly back-to-back. and Audio Focus, which gives users the ability to prioritise the volume of the music or the trainers’ voices.