The Apple Watch is the most popular watch in the world—not the most popular smartwatch, the most popular watch. Its success is due in no small part to the way older models get better every year with the annual watchOS update.
We expect watchOS 9 to release this fall, along with a new Apple Watch Series 8. But Apple will likely unveil watchOS 9 and its major new features at the WWDC keynote on June 6, followed by several months of beta-testing.
While there have been only a few small rumors about what to expect, we have our own ideas for what we’d like to see. Here are some of the things we hope Apple will announce when it unveils the next generation of watchOS.
A better low-power mode
Apple Watch already has a low-power mode called Power Reserve, but it’s way too basic. It makes the power last four times as long but renders your watch useless for anything other than checking the current time. The good news is, that a more robust low-power mode may actually be on the way. A Bloomberg report says it’s in the cards for watchOS 9, though we don’t know exactly how it will work.
A better low-power mode, that isn’t quite so useless, is what we want. It could shut off things like heart-rate monitoring, most of the accelerometer functions, as well as third-party apps, while still displaying a full watch face and notifications, for example. Perhaps it would make the battery last only 48 hours instead of 72, but it would be a much better option for those who are going to be away from a charger for a long time.
Custom watch faces
Rumor has it that watchOS 9 will update and refresh some of the existing faces, which is certainly needed but doesn’t go far enough. We’ve wanted custom watch faces on Apple Watch since the very beginning, and Apple still hasn’t made it happen. There are lots of issues with copyright and IP to address, but lots of opportunities, too!
Rather than just give developers free rein to make and sell watch faces, I envision a sort of “FaceKit” framework and developer toolkit. Much like WidgetKit, it would provide standardized fonts, interface elements, animation templates, and other things to make faces that look like Apple’s, while keeping enough guardrails on developers to preserve the Apple Watch experience. But like widgets on iOS, developers would still have enough freedom to make great and unique faces.
Better sleep tracking
Sleep tracking was finally added to Apple Watch back in watchOS 7, and watchOS 8 made it just a little better by adding the ability to track your respiratory rate when sleeping.
But the Apple Watch is still not a great sleep tracker. Apps like AutoSleep do a better job of automatically detecting when you sleep, and tracking when you’re in deep sleep or not. I’d expect a simpler interface from Apple than most of the third-party sleep tracking apps, but I still want better, clearer insight into whether I got good sleep, not just how much I got. With the Pixel Watch powered by Fitbit on the way, the Apple Watch is going to need much better native sleep tracking—and watchOS 9 is a great way to start.
A Health app
How is there no Health app on Apple Watch yet? Half the info in the Health app seems to originate on the Apple Watch! There are health-related apps like Heart Rate, Cycle Tracking, and ECG, but no app to browse through your overall health data in one place.
A Health app on Apple Watch would probably need to be somewhat condensed compared to what’s on your iPhone, but it would still be useful to view your daily health metrics and trends. Apple could take another page from Fitbit here, which has a nicely organized Today dashboard to show all of your daily activity totals. But anything that lets you see your stats without needing to bounce between several apps would be a great improvement.
A Notes app with robust Siri support
There’s still no Notes app on Apple Watch. It’s understandable that Apple would think we don’t want to do much note-taking on that platform—text entry is sort of a slow pain.
But how great would it be to raise your wrist up and say, “Hey Siri, take a note…” and have Siri create a new Note, synced to your other devices via iCloud, that includes both a dictation of what you say and the voice recording as an attachment? Apple could even automatically tag any note created on your watch so they’re easier to find.
And of course, there are plenty of times when it might be nice to read a note on your watch, too. Like the Calculator app on the iPad or Weather app on the Mac, it’s a head-scratcher as to why there isn’t a rudimentary Notes app on the Apple Watch and it’s about time Apple added one.