We’re closing in on Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (4 June, mark your calendars), where Tim Cook will get on stage, thank developers for their hard work and announce the latest Apple Watch operating system, watchOS 5.
Apple’s smartwatch OS has come a long way since it was introduced back in 2015. It’s dialed back communication features and put a much-needed emphasis on health and fitness.
Thus, watchOS 5 has evolved into something quite good. However, it still has a way to go, and there are a couple of things we’d like to see debuted in watchOS 5. In the spirit of anticipation, we thought we’d list the features we want to see the most. Dear Tim, please make these happen.
LTE for third-party apps
Now that the Apple Watch has LTE connectivity, it can (partially) be used as a standalone device. Or, well, that’s the idea. You can head out for a run or a quick trip to the store and not worry about missing phone calls, GPS directions, text messages or the ability to stream music. But that’s because those are enabled by Apple’s own apps.
For the Apple Watch to truly take the next step and become a standalone device, it needs to grant third-party apps the ability to tap into its LTE connection. Imagine if third-party apps on the iPhone couldn’t go online. That would be pretty crazy, right? Luckily, it seems that this is likely on the way in the form of StreamKit, and a Spotify app could be the big showcase app for it if you believe the rumors.
Automatic workout detection
You could argue that watchOS is the most sophisticated smartwatch OS out there, or at least the most polished. That’s all fine and dandy, but it can’t automatically detect workouts – unlike much of its competition, from Fitbit to Samsung.
Instead, you have to head to the workout app and choose your activity. Over, and over, and over again. Why can’t Apple’s smartwatch just recognize that I’m walking, or running, or doing anything. For tri-athletes who do different workouts in succession, this also means you wouldn’t need to go and add on the next workout yourself – it would just recognize that I’ve switched. Get it done.
Always-on watch faces
The Apple Watch uses an OLED display (well, at least until the microLED displays are ready), and that means that it has the ability to showcase an always-on display.
You’ve likely seen this trick on a number of wearables and smartphones. Basically, because OLED displays allow for deeper blacks, it can keep the display as black as possible and then show things in white text, merely sipping at the battery life.
Now that the iPhone also has an OLED display, it feels likely that Apple could finally write this into iOS and, by extension, watchOS. We’d love a white version of the Modular face that is always keeping us up to date with our need-to-know information.
This is probably the most requested Apple Watch feature right now, and with Apple’s purchase of Beddit it feels like it’s an eventuality rather than a far-off hope. The only thing standing in the way here is battery life, because the Apple Watch is still a device you need to charge at the end of every day.
To get around that, Apple could get creative. Maybe watchOS 5 could put the Watch in a low-power mode that turns off everything save for whatever sensors are needed for sleep tracking. Or maybe it could work in conjunction with Nightstand mode. The Watch records when you call asleep and then listens for your snoring. Then when you wake up and put the watch back on, it stops recording your sleep. That could be a little too simple, but it’s something.
More robust Siri watch face
The Siri watch face was one of our favorite new additions to watchOS 4, but it feels like it isn’t as good as it should be. Sure, it’ll pull in information from your calendar and mix it in with your photos, news and activity. But it’s limited to Apple’s built-in apps for now.
What if you don’t use Apple’s calendar app? What if you want your Uber details up there, or breaking news updates from Twitter? Imagine getting a new Spotify playlist show up right there in the Siri watch face. The potential here is great, but to enable it Apple needs to open things up a bit more.
Eventually, the Apple Watch will be able to detect and diagnose medical conditions via its sensors (whatever future sensors may show up in them). That isn’t a reality yet, as Apple has to go through scientific studies to prove the Watch’s accuracy.
But it is getting closer, with multiple studies saying it can reach within 97% accuracy. Apple, of course, will need to deploy its own neural network to get this feature up and running. Is it ready for this year, or is watchOS 6 more likely?
A lot of people buy wearables with the hopes that they’ll help them get healthy. However, once the data starts coming in they don’t really know what to do with it and can get discouraged. People want actionable programs that can help them get fit, or tell them what to do at the very least.
Apple needs to start debuting workout programs that help you get in shape and living better – something more specific than “Close your rings”. How about something that gives you 5-minute exercises you can do while watching TV? Or a running program that teaches you how to run a 5K? If numerous third-party apps can do it, there’s no reason Apple can’t.
Apple Watch tries to do motivation. Every hour it’ll remind you to stand, or it’ll remind you to take a minute out of your day to breathe. In watchOS 4, Apple enhanced this by peppering in little bursts of pep talks. Stuff like “Hey you haven’t closed your rings, get to it!” or “You’re almost there, you can do it!”
These sometimes feel motivating, but most of the time they’re kind of annoying. It feels like Apple is shaming you for having an off day. We’d like to see Apple find a more relatable, human way of getting us off our butts and moving around. Imagine if watchOS looked at your week and could determine that you worked out for six days so maybe you needed a rest day, and then adjusted its motivations to fix that. Or maybe it knew that you took a 20 minute walk earlier in the day and that just 10 minutes of jumping jacks at home could hit your goals.