Apple is preparing a major software update for its Watch line that will focus on widgets and fundamental changes in functionality, writes Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman.
When Apple Watch first hit the market in 2015, their watchOS operating system had 4 main interfaces: watch faces, Glances widgets, a home screen with app icons, and a menu for accessing frequent contacts. However, a few years later, the strategy changed: widgets and frequent contacts were removed to give priority to notifications and multitasking capabilities.
Apps were still a major part of the Apple Watch, and running them was the best way to get information other than looking at the watch face. The home screen can be accessed with a single press of the Digital Crown, the device’s most visible button.
But now Apple plans to bring widgets back and make them a central part of the interface with the upcoming watchOS 10 software update. The company is debuting this new strategy at WWDC in June, together with the presentation of iOS 17, macOS 14, 15-inch MacBook Air and the long-awaited mixed reality headset.
The new widget system on the Apple Watch will be a combination of the old watchOS Glances system and the style of widgets introduced in iOS 14 on the iPhone. Users will be able to scroll through a series of widgets, such as activity trackers, weather, stock quotes and calendar appointments, instead of launching apps.
The new interface will be similar to the Siri watch face introduced in watchOS 4 and will be available as an overlay on any watch face. In addition, it will be similar to widget stacks, a feature in iOS and iPadOS that allows users to combine many widgets into one and scroll through them.
As part of the update, Apple is testing the idea of changing the functions of some buttons on the watch. Currently, pressing the Digital Crown launches the home screen, but in the next version of watchOS, Apple may make it open widgets instead.
The move is an acknowledgment that an iPhone-like app format doesn’t always make sense on a watch, where users want as much information as possible with minimal interaction. Apple Watch apps have barely caught on in the seven years since their launch, and the company hasn’t attracted enough third-party developers, especially compared to its other platforms.
The upcoming watchOS 10 software update aims to give users faster access to information, and it’s likely to be the most significant change to the Apple Watch this year. When the new watch models are introduced this fall, they are expected to be similar to last year’s lineup, as major hardware changes have already taken place in 2022. Apple updated all Apple Watch models and introduced the Apple Watch Ultra.