watchOS 10 could be biggest Apple Watch upgrade in years — here's why

WWDC 2023
(Image credit: Apple)

The reason why the Apple Watch is the best smartwatch year after year has as much to do with continuous improvements to watchOS software as it does hardware upgrades. That’s why it’s easy to recommend all models of the Apple Watch, not just the latest flagship. What’s more, when you buy a new watch from Apple, it’s guaranteed to last several years.

With WWDC 2023 taking place today, June 5, It’s almost that time of year to find out the biggest changes coming to Apple Watch. Based on long-standing precedent, we expect to see an overview of watchOS 10. But based on the rumors, the upcoming software update will be more than just an iterative refresh — a major overhaul could be in the cards.

According to the most substantial watchOS 10 report we’ve read ahead of Apple’s annual developer conference, using the Apple Watch is about to look a lot different. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman said Apple will introduce “notable changes to the user interface,” namely a new widget system that makes it easier to get personalized information at a glance. 

“The plan is to let users scroll through a series of different widgets — for activity tracking, weather, stock tickers, calendar appointments and more — rather than having them launch apps,” the Apple tipster reported.

Apple Watch might finally live up to its full potential

watchOS 10 homescreen leak

(Image credit: @analyst941)

I’ve been an Apple Watch user since the original release, so my smartwatch is practically an extension of my body at this point. But even as an avid tester of the best Apple Watch apps, I’ve craved more intuition when it comes to the device’s overall friendliness to third-party programs.

Imagine being able to check the latest scores from your favorite MLB team, review a traffic report of your regular commute or get a prompt from Nike Run Club to launch a workout just by swiping through a stack of widgets.

Over the years, watchOS has improved to support third-party complications for the watch face. This let me figure out how to add a step counter to my watch face, for example. But anything further that I want from an app not on my watch face — even including certain native apps — means I have to hope said app is in my recents shortcut or resign to digging around in my lengthy app list. 

The widget-based redesign that Gurman describes sounds like it could make apps more accessible. With a curated series of tiles featuring selected apps, users will apparently be able to swipe through a carousel of sorts to view the latest information they’d want to see quickly. Imagine being able to check the latest scores from your favorite MLB team, review a traffic report of your regular commute, get a prompt from Nike Run Club to launch a workout and see your Oura Ring sleep data just by swiping through a stack of widgets.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because Apple would be borrowing iOS’s widget system, which launched in 2020. Though widgets only included a handful of Apple apps at first, the feature has expanded to support a larger number of third-party apps. Now, my iPhone’s home screens are the destination for nearly everything I might want to know or use.

One step closer to an iPhone-free experience

I’ve said for a few years now that an iPhone-free Apple Watch experience is not a question of if, but when. Should the Apple Watch recreate the iPhone widget experience, it would eliminate some of the friction that stops people from making the most of their smartwatch.

When users realize how much they can actually learn and achieve solely from their wrist, there would be more motivation on the developers’ end to optimize their apps for Apple Watch. Better apps for Apple Watch mean you could possibly transition using certain apps from smartphone to smartwatch.

With cellular connectivity, larger screen sizes (ahem, Apple Watch Ultra), new safety sensors and battery life management, Apple has already taken strides to make its smartwatch as practical as possible from a hardware perspective. The software and app side of the experience looks primed to catch up thanks to watchOS 10.

Of course, watchOS 10 will ship on the Apple Watch Series 9, giving you another reason to follow along with WWDC. Check out our guide on how to watch the WWDC 2023 keynote live stream to see all of Apple's smartwatch-related news as its announced.

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Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.