In the years since its launch, the Apple Watch has grown into a well-rounded fitness tracker and a useful smartphone companion. But there are several ways Apple could make it even more helpful in both areas, and I’m hoping to learn more about how Apple is doing just that at its Worldwide Developers Conference.
The Apple Watch already has a bevy of exercise options and can measure more health data points than I personally know what to do with. Yet it still lags behind competitors when it comes to delivering insights related to sleep and workout recovery. Fitness aside, I’d love to see more changes to the user interface that makes it easier to get information quickly without requiring multiple taps and swipes.
Apple rarely discusses products or updates before formally announcing them, but it traditionally introduces new features for the Apple Watch at its developer conference. Software updates have become even more important for the Apple Watch in recent years, bringing upgrades that are arguably more meaningful than new hardware — like more running metrics and low power mode.
But there’s plenty of opportunity to further refine the Apple Watch’s software, especially by making more sense of all the health data it can gather.
Read More: Everything I Hope Apple Adds to iOS 17 for the iPhone at WWDC
Your Apple Watch can show how long you slept and how much time you spent in specific stages of slumber, like deep and REM sleep. But brands like Oura and Citizen aim to take that a step further by issuing a chronotype based on your sleeping patterns and other data.
The term chronotype refers to whether your body has a natural preference for the morning or the evening. Oura measures this by analyzing your activity, sleep-wake cycle and body temperature; while Citizen crunches sleep data and alertness scores (which are generated after taking a test in the app).
I don’t expect Apple to mimic this exact approach, but it would be helpful to see more insights around how sleeping patterns tie into my overall energy levels throughout the day. There’s a lot more Apple could do when it comes to sleep tracking in general. While introducing sleep stage detection was a much-needed addition last year, I’d also still like to see some type of sleep score that summarizes the quality of my rest at a glance.
The Apple Watch is effective at getting me to move — maybe a little too effective. I obsess over closing at least one Activity Ring on a daily basis. But as I’ve written in the past, the Apple Watch could use more features aimed at workout recovery.
The Apple Watch can encourage you to relax, get to bed on time or start moving when you’ve been inactive for too long. However, it doesn’t have any meaningful insights on how much rest you might need after a tough workout or a night of inadequate sleep.
Oura, Whoop and Fitbit all offer some type of recovery metric that helps you understand whether you’re ready for a big workout or need to take a rest day. They generally do this by examining sleep, activity and heart rate variability data among other factors. In the past, scores like these have helped me shake the guilt that comes with skipping a workout on days when I’m just not feeling up to it.
More customizable activity goals
My workout routine and activity levels vary by the day depending on how well rested I am, my workload, whether I’m commuting to the office and other factors. I wish I could adjust my activity goals to match. While you can easily change your activity goals by simply tapping the “Change Goals” button at the bottom of the activity summary on your watch, there’s no way to customize it according to the day. For example, I’d love to set a higher goal on days when I know I’ll get more steps in (ie the days I work from the office ) and at times when I’m usually well rested (the weekend), and lower it otherwise (ie my work-from-home days).
More QWERTY keyboard support
The Apple Watch Series 7 feels very similar to the Series 6 when I reviewed it in 2021. But there’s one feature that debuted on the Series 7 I missed when switching to older watches: the QWERTY keyboard. Yes, I know typing on such a tiny screen seems like more trouble than it’s worth, but hear me out.
There are plenty of times I’d like to quickly respond to a text message without reaching for my phone, such as when I’m waiting for the elevator at the office and my phone is buried in my bag, during a run or when my phone is across the room. The QWERTY keyboard has surprisingly become my favorite way to fire off a quick text in those circumstances.
The QWERTY keyboard is currently available on the Apple Watch Series 7, Series 8 and Ultra because those watches have larger screens. While the bigger screen certainly makes it easier to tap and swipe, I could imagine the keyboard fitting just fine on the 44-millimeter version of older Apple Watches. It’s the one feature I really miss when switching back to an older watch like the Series 6. After all, even the Pixel Watch, which has a relatively small screen, has an on-screen keyboard.
Additional uses for the temperature sensor
Apple debuted overnight temperature sensing in the Apple Watch Series 8 and Ultra. Right now, the technology is primarily used for providing retrospective ovulation estimates and improved period predictions. You can also view changes in your nighttime wrist temperature in Apple’s Health app, although there isn’t really a way to make sense of those numbers.
Apple should explore other ways to tie temperature data into new metrics. Oura, for example, uses temperature as one factor in determining that aforementioned readiness score. While I wouldn’t expect Apple to clone exactly what other gadget makers are doing, it would be interesting to see it somehow tie temperature readings into other insights.
Ahead of the Apple Watch Series 8 and Ultra’s arrival last year, Bloomberg reported that the Series 8 would be able to detect fevers. We haven’t seen such functionality yet, but if Bloomberg’s report is accurate, it suggests Apple is certainly thinking about future use cases.
An updated interface
The Apple Watch has existed for nearly a decade. While Apple has made many tweaks and additions to the software over the years, the general user interface remains the same. You still have two options for how apps are displayed, either in a list or in a honeycomb format. Many interactions either come in the form of responding to a notification, tapping an app, or complications or dictating a request via Siri.
In 2023, it’s time for a change. Precisely what that change has yet to be determined, but I’d like to see any improvement that makes it easier to get things done with fewer taps and swipes. I also think the software could be more proactive. Imagine if your watch could suggest new customized watch faces decked out with complications based on your usage habits? The iPhone has gotten better at surfacing apps, contacts and other content intuitively, and I’d love to see more of that infused throughout the Apple Watch’s software too.
Bloomberg reports that some changes may indeed be coming in WatchOS 10. An April report said Apple is planning a big refresh that will make widgets a core part of the operating system, with the goal being to make it easier to see information at a glance.
Apple already gets many things right with the Apple Watch’s software; it’s one of the reasons why it’s the most popular smartwatch in the world. But additions like these could make it even easier to use while making it a more capable wellness tracker.