watchOS 11 — 5 awesome Apple Watch features that weren't mentioned at WWDC

WWDC 2024
(Image credit: Apple)

Now that Apple has given us a preview of watchOS 11, we can start looking forward to  all the new Apple Watch features coming later this year when the full version is released. But among the announcements made during WWDC 2024, certain watchOS 11 features were omitted from the actual keynote — and some happen to be quite exciting.

ICYMI, watchOS 11's biggest upgrades include Training Load, Pause Activity Rings, and a new Vitals app. Together, these health features are meant to better inform users to what's going on with their bodies, and let them make adjustments to their routines accordingly. While these are the kind of features we've been wanting for years, they're not the only activity-based features included in watchOS 11.

Apple also added iPhone features like Check In and the Translate app to its smartwatch. But again, some of the most popular existing apps received underrated refreshes that every Apple Watch user should know about. 

Here are the 5 lesser-known watchOS 11 features that you should keep on your radar when the software officially releases (likely alongside the Apple Watch 10) in the fall.

Distance tracking for more workout types

Several workout types like running, walking and cycling already tracked your distance traveled while closing your Apple Watch rings, but now the feature is coming to more workout types. Now when you launch Soccer, American Football, Australian Football, Outdoor Hockey, Lacrosse, Downhill Skiing, Cross Country Skiing, Snowboarding, Golf, Outdoor Rowing, and more activities, you'll be able to monitor your distance the entire time.

According to Apple's watchOS 11 Newsroom post, distance tracking is made possible by "using enhancements in GPS positioning." We're not entirely sure why distance tracking for at least some of these working types wasn't available before, but it's a welcome addition nonetheless.

Custom Pool Swim workouts

Apple Watch swimming workout

(Image credit: Apple)

Another new workout-related feature in watchOS 11 comes to Custom Workouts. As a reminder, Custom Workouts let you tailor your upcoming workout to your greater fitness goals, taking the mental load off what you should be doing once the activity is underway. Custom Workouts is already one of the best Apple Watch running features and best Apple Watch biking features for interval training, but now it's available for the Pool Swim workout type, too.

Users can customize an interval-based workout based on sets of work and recovery. Helpful haptics will signal it is time to move on to the next interval, so you're never guessing while you're underwater.  

Apple Maps hiking routes for national parks

As part of iOS 18, the Apple Maps app supports topographic maps with detailed trail networks and hiking routes, including all 63 U.S. national parks. Hiking routes for the national parks is also available in the Maps app for Apple Watch with watchOS 11. Better yet, these routes can be accessed offline with turn-by-turn directions, even if your iPhone isn't with you.

Additionally, you can now create a walking route in Apple Maps on your iPhone, then later follow the route using just your Apple Watch.

Tap to Cash

WWDC 2024

(Image credit: Apple)

Also introduced as part of iOS 18, Tap to Cash joins the Apple Wallet app as a new way to exchange money quickly and conveniently. During WWDC, Apple demonstrated two iPhone devices together and you'll be able to exchange most through Apple Cash. But the feature is set to work with Apple Watch devices that have the Wallet app set up as well. 

Tap to Cash will work on the Apple Watch 7 or later, the second-genertion Apple Watch SE and all Apple Watch Ultra models; it's limited to the U.S.

Enhanced ticketing

Apple Wallet gets an upgrade to tickets, too. New "enhanced ticketing" provides more information on digital tickets, such as venue hours. What's more, a Live Activity will launch at the event so users can see their seats and other key details at the top of their Smart Stack at a glance. 

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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.