Apple is often accused of charging too much for its products, but some of the company’s most prominent releases are free. Such as annual major software updates for iPhone, Mac, iPad and Apple Watch that unlock a range of new features at no additional cost.
This year, in fact, the watchOS 10 software update (price: $0) is expected to be significantly more significant than this year’s new hardware. The Apple Watch Series 9 (likely price: $399 and up) has been described as “everything but flagship”, while the new OS is expected to bring “major improvements, including an updated interface”.
This article is our deep dive into watchOS 10, sifting through leaks and rumors to bring you the best information available on the release schedule, hardware compatibility, and a host of interface changes and new features. WWDC can’t come soon enough!
Update 4/27: A new rumor claims that watchOS 10 may allow the Apple Watch to sync with multiple Apple devices.
watchOS 10 release date: When will watchOS 10 arrive?
watchOS 10 will be announced at WWDC 2023 on June 5, enter a lengthy beta testing process, and finally be available for official public download in the fall.
It’s worth noting that Apple hasn’t announced any of this (besides the WWDC date), but the company’s OS updates follow a predictable pattern. Every summer, Apple announces major new versions of watchOS, iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and tvOS. It’s demoing some or all of them at its WWDC meeting—the phase time varies depending on what Apple thinks is most interesting to the audience—and then it’ll begin beta testing. Final versions usually appear in September (watchOS 9 was released on September 9 last year), around the same time as this year’s new iPhones and Apple Watch.
Here’s the schedule we expect for watchOS 10:
- June 5: watchOS 10 is unveiled at the WWDC keynote.
- June 5: First developer beta released.
- July: The first public beta has been released.
- June September: A number of beta versions are released, gradually approaching the final product.
- September: watchOS 10.0 is released to the public.
watchOS 10 compatibility: Which Apple Watch will be able to run watchOS 10?
We expect watchOS 10 to work on the same devices as watchOS 9: Apple Watch Series 4 and later. But we will know for sure only at WWDC.
The recent pattern has been for Apple to shorten the list of compatible models every other year. In 2018, watchOS 5 stopped supporting the first generation Apple Watch; in 2020, watchOS 7 abandoned Series 1 and 2; and in 2022, watchOS 9 dropped Series 3. That’s why we think watchOS 10 will hold off on swinging the ax and Series 4 will live on for another year — even if it might not gain access to a whole host of new features.
Of course, each version of watchOS also has a list of compatible iPhones: for now, every Apple Watch must have an iPhone paired with iOS 17. In 2019, watchOS 6 stopped supporting the iPhone 5, 6, and 6 Plus; the remaining iPhones lasted another three years, but in 2022 watchOS 9 launched the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, 7 and 7 Plus, and the 2016 iPhone SE. After this carnage, we suspect that the iPhone 8 and later will be compatible with a new version of watchOS again this year.
watchOS 10: How to install beta and full version
Once watchOS 10 is actually here, installing it on the Apple Watch will be easy. Simply open the Watch app on your companion iPhone, make sure you’re on the My Watch tab, and go to General > Software update and follow the instructions on the screen. You may need to update your iPhone first.
You’ll also be able to try the watchOS 10 beta before fall. To do that, you need to join Apple’s beta program and understand that some features on your watch may stop working. Apple is simplifying the beta process in watchOS 9.5, so you’ll need to sign in with your Apple ID to get betas on all your devices, and if you want to stop receiving them, you can easily turn them off. In the same Software update tab, a new one will appear watchOS 10 Beta tab that lets you switch from watchOS 9 updates to watchOS 10 updates.
watchOS 10: Introducing new features
The new version of watchOS will include plenty of small improvements designed to improve the reliability of existing features, but the real bulk of Apple’s announcements will focus on the new things you’ll soon be able to do with your Apple Watch and new ways to interact. with that. Here are the new features and major changes we expect in watchOS 10.
User comfort with a digital interface is as much about familiarity as it is about sound design principles, and any major change in this area is sure to lead to pushback; that’s what Apple experienced with the radically redesigned and initially unpopular iOS 7 in 2013. But Mark Gurman, the leaker/analyst who predicted big things for the Apple Watch this year, was careful to use the word updated rather than New to describe the interface of watchOS 10. It will be different, but it doesn’t seem like it will be completely different.
More details on what it will look like emerged on April 18, when leaker Analyst 941 on Twitter (Anonymous-AS on the Macrumors forums) predicted a “redesigned home screen/grid layout” and said it would be “much easier to use, move, and act more familiar with iOS, including folders.” The prediction was accompanied by renders showing very large icons lined up in straight rows and columns (as opposed to the space-saving mosaic honeycomb pattern currently in use) and a rough visual of how folders will work.
It’s fair to say that the current honeycomb grid isn’t easy to use, as the icons are small and haphazardly arranged, while their proximity to each other makes it easy to open the wrong app. The list view is a better option for most Apple Watch owners, but having larger and more regularly arranged icons seems like a win, even if the idea of folders on such a small screen is less appealing.
But keep in mind that it’s not confirmed: Analyst 941 has had some recent hits with accurate predictions, but doesn’t have a long track record to warrant much confidence. And second, even if the general theory is correct, the details and execution are still up in the air. Of course, the rough renders look a little clunky, but Apple’s designers could do with something more polished. But once we got used to it, it could be a very usable interface.
Health and other new apps
Apple likes to offer a brand new OS update app like Breathe in watchOS 3 and Walkie Talkie in watchOS 5, but we haven’t heard any rumors of anything like that this year. We’re hearing that Apple may bring the existing Health app to the Apple Watch… though the origins of this theory are unclear. (At the time of writing, BGR confidently reports that Apple “expects to bring a Health app to the Apple Watch,” without citing a source; Tom’s Guide, meanwhile, mentions it as something that would as Still, it would make sense for the Apple Watch to get a centralized health panel, given its growing importance to Apple’s health and fitness efforts.
Pairing multiple devices
According to Analyst941 on TwitterApple is trying to remove one of the biggest limitations of the Apple Watch: device syncing. Currently, Apple Watch needs to be paired with an iPhone, and only one iPhone at a time. Analyst941, who previously leaked Apple’s accurate information, said the feature will allow the Apple Watch to “sync between multiple iOS/iPadOS/Mac devices and no longer be tied to a single iPhone.” The leak isn’t sure if this is a watchOS 10 feature or planned for a future release, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed that it’s part of watchOS 10.
There are certain features that Apple routinely adds to its smartwatches every year. watchOS 10 will almost certainly see the addition of new faces, for example, and new complications to the faces we already have. There’s a good chance the Workout app is getting a new routine or two. Sleep tracking is likely to be improved a bit more, as it’s still worth the equivalent feature on the Fitbit.
None of them are big enough to headline the keynote because it’s expected. But small iterative improvements are still an important part of the value offered by Apple’s free annual updates.
With no spring event earlier this year, WWDC 2023 should be an exciting event with plenty of major announcements expected.
On the software side, watchOS 10 will be accompanied by four more operating system updates, the most significant of which are likely to be iOS 17 (which could see the arrival of sideloading on the iPhone for the first time) and macOS 14 for Mac.
But there should also be new hardware. Apple would like to build the event around its long-awaited mixed-reality headset, the first in a whole new ecosystem of products that could eventually surpass the iPhone in importance — although the word “could” carries a lot of weight on that issue. and often delayed project.
New Macs are also in the works. There could be as many as three new MacBooks, including a new 15-inch MacBook Air, and Apple fans are daring to hope that the company will finally bring the Mac Pro to Apple’s silicon realms.