While watchOS 10 is bringing a number of big upgrades to the Apple Watch user experience, there's an underrated new feature that could totally change the way Apple's smartwatch is used for one of my favorite hobbies: golf.
As part of the watchOS 10 software update, app developers will gain access to new APIs that leverage the Apple Watch Series 8's and Apple Watch Ultra's improved motion sensors to analyze swing motions. This data can be translated in third-party sports app to help players understand (and potentially improve) their game.
I've tried SwingVision, one of the best Apple Watch apps for a dedicated sport, and it could already determine my type of swing, shot speed and shot rotation. But when I tried an equivalent app for golf swings, Golfshot, I found that it didn't have as much to offer as a dedicated golf watch.
When I wore the Apple Watch Ultra for golf, it had activity-tracking and connectivity benefits. For more advanced insights on my game, I prefer a Garmin watch. Certain models have automatic swing tracking, and can even recommend clubs to use as it learns how I play. I've found this kind of information helps me become a better golfer.
Yet, it means I have to leave my Apple Watch Ultra at home when I play. As the best Apple Watch yet in terms of battery life, the Ultra has been more equipped for hours-long GPS use than any Apple Watch before. I got through a round no problem, with enough juice to last for at least the rest of the day.
So with battery life no longer a major roadblock towards making the Apple Watch a true golf watch, perhaps all the smartwatch has needed to keep up with Garmin golf watches is more advanced golfing software.
Apple announced the improved motion sensors in the latest-gen Apple Watch devices as part of a new crash detection feature. By releasing motion sensor-driven APIs as part of watchOS 10, it grows the possible software applications of the existing hardware.
By detecting rapid changes in velocity and acceleration, such as when swinging a golf club or a tennis racket, even very minor wrist movements can be judged. For golf, this could mean knowing whether you keep your wrist facing forward throughout your backswing and impact or not. This is something that I've been told to keep in mind as a practice, but I can't always tell how well I listen when it comes time to swing.
I'm optimistic the Apple Watch app store will get more golf apps, and better golf apps, thanks to this developer-facing watchOS 10 feature. Again, it's not one that users can take direct advantage of, like the new Smart Stacks or mental health features, but it's one that can make the Apple Watch a more capable overall golf watch.