April 20, 2024

5 features I want to see in watchOS 11

From being labeled as a fashionable piece of technology to establishing itself as a feature-rich wearable health device, Apple Watches have come a long way. While Apple adds some new features to its watchOS updates each year, those advanced health sensors aren’t explored to their full potential. Next year is the 10th birthday of the Apple Watch and I have high hopes for a big new hardware upgrade along with top-notch software to enhance the combination. Let’s leave the hardware for another day, here are 5 watchOS 11 features that I would definitely love to see in 2024.

1. Programmable side button

The first feature I want to see in watchOS 11 is a programmable side button. Since Apple released watchOS 10, it changed the way users could access the Control Center and App Switcher. It immediately got a lot of negative reviews. Users were confused about how to access Control Center in watchOS 10. In fact, many users did not appreciate this change. Of course, users won’t like Apple altering their long-developed habits.

Side button on Apple Watch.

The Apple Watch Ultra and Apple Watch Ultra 2 have an additional programmable action button. But the standard Apple Watch series lacks this feature. Instead of moving functionality between the side button, sliders, and digital crown, it’s nice to have a programmable side button on the Apple Watch. For example, you could press the side button once to start a workout. Also, since I use the stopwatch too often on my smartwatch, I could assign that action to the side button.

I also dream of customizing the side button with double press. For example, I can press the side button once to open Control Center and press it twice to launch the Training app. However, since Apple didn’t offer this functionality on the action button on the iPhone 15 Pro and Apple Watch Ultra models, I don’t see the double-tap feature coming anytime soon. Still, we can dream, right? That said, a programmable side button in watchOS 11 isn’t too much to ask for.

2. Redesigned nightstand mode with AOD

The other watchOS 11 feature I’d love to see is a brand new Nightstand mode. Since its inception, the Apple Watch had a drab nightstand mode that only displayed red/green icons, battery symbols, a digital clock, and upcoming alarms. I really think we’re done with that boring and not-so-useful Nightstand mode. The Apple Watch 2024 update should bring a brand new Nightstand mode that can be customized.

I would love to have an analog clock in Nightstand mode. Also, it would be great to decorate the night mode with photos. At its core, I want watchOS 11 to offer something similar to what we’ve seen with StandBy mode in iOS 17. I can add widgets and customize Nightstand mode to my preferences.

Apple Watch nightstand mode.

Moving on, I want watchOS 11 to add Always On functionality to Apple Watch Nightstand mode. From now on, nightstand mode is activated when the Apple Watch is charging. The screen stays on for a few seconds and then turns off automatically until you touch the screen again. With watchOS 11, Apple should add an always-on nightstand mode that displays visible information all the time.

Since the Apple Watch Series 5 and later models have the Always On feature, combining it with Nightstand mode shouldn’t be a problem. After all, if these smartwatches can handle AOD while it’s on your wrist, why can’t they do it when connected to a charger? I’m not asking Apple to introduce a new feature, I just want it to extend the Always On functionality to night mode. Of course, there should be an option to dim the brightness so as not to disturb light sleepers. Additionally, like the iPhone 14 Pro and 15 Pro models, there should be an option to disable always-on standby completely.

3. Deeper, easier-to-understand health information

I think Apple Watch and watchOS have evolved over the years. That said, it lacks some advanced features that should have already arrived. Also, one thing I feel about the Apple Watch is that it offers confusing information that is difficult for a casual user to understand. Sometimes, I’m filled with a lot of information that I can’t even decode on that small screen. I hope watchOS 11 makes everything smoother and easier.

I would love to see the following health features in watchOS 11. Let me walk you through them.

Better sleep tracking

Apple introduced sleep tracking with watchOS 8 and improved it considerably in watchOS 9. However, I think Apple is still behind the competition when it comes to sleep tracking. Apple Watch gives you information about the different stages of sleep (deep, central, REM) along with resting heart and breathing rates. But is this monitoring sufficient and intelligent? If you don’t have a set bedtime and wake-up routine, you won’t get accurate data. Additionally, the current sleep tracking on Apple Watch does not take into account naps or short rests, as these do not occur during nighttime sleep schedules.

I hope watchOS 11 offers smarter sleep tracking that automatically adapts to my routine and offers better information about whether I’m sleeping properly. Plus, it should tell me if I got enough sleep to be ready for the next day’s training or hectic routine.

Track stress and anxiety

Speaking of my watchOS 11 wish list, one of my top requests is for stress and anxiety tracking. I feel that mental health is equally if not more important than physical health. Stress and anxiety affect general well-being. It can hinder our ability to be better emotionally, mentally, and physically. While the Apple Watch can track your fitness levels with the Activity app, it doesn’t have any robust mechanism for tracking mental well-being. I hope watchOS 11 can detect stress and anxiety levels and alert users in case of high stress. You should also show ways to calm yourself.

While you can find some third-party watchOS apps that can track stress levels, I long for built-in functionality that offers a more holistic view.

Smarter rings

Since 2014, Apple Watches have used activity rings to determine how healthy or active your lifestyle is. It’s 2024, but those rings are still the same. I don’t want to be harsh, but I think the 3 ring fitness system is toxic, aggressive, and doesn’t tell the whole story. It monitors your achievements and, when you reach your goals, suggests more challenging ones.

While this may help some users, the system is not useful for athletes or other fitness enthusiasts whose goal is to build muscle or gain weight. I mean, where’s the rest and recovery? Also, an Apple Watch doesn’t understand intent, like what the users’ focus is.

Now, that’s one. The other thing currently missing from watchOS is the ability to maintain a streak when you take a day off. Everything is nice when you close your rings every day; One day you are tired and your rings are ruined. This is not fair at all. Apple Watch should have something similar to Fitbit’s Daily Readiness Score that better understands your body and provides personalized workout intensity and recovery recommendations.

Activity rings on Apple Watch

I firmly believe that moving, standing, and exercising goals should not be the only health metrics. Apple Watch should also take into account mental illness, rest and recovery, and sudden life changes. In short, I want watchOS 11 to introduce smarter rings that don’t constantly pressure you for more.

There should be a way to manually add rest days or get personalized rest day recommendations. Come on Apple, rest is important! Instead of sending alerts to get out and exercise, I’d love for watchOS 11 to send me some motivational quotes and applaud me for making it through the day where I almost feel like quitting.

AI-generated health summary

I am very excited about the upcoming iOS 18 and the smarter “Siri 2.0” based on generative AI. With that in mind, I want watchOS 11 to take advantage of AI and offer easy-to-understand health information. Right now, Apple Watch offers information in the form of graphs and reports. Sometimes it feels too little and other times too much. But one thing is common: they are not easy to understand.

I want to see an AI-generated health summary feature in watchOS 11 that offers an easy-to-understand summary that covers all the essentials, without the jargon. Imagine how easy it would be to understand long ECG graphs and sleep tracking reports. Even better, I could ask Siri to show my sleep or workout summary.

4. Quick access to step count

If you ask me something I don’t like about the Apple Watch it would be the complicated access to the step count. I mean, why do I have to head to the Activity app every time I want to see my steps? I know, it won’t be a problem for someone who doesn’t follow the steps or does it from time to time. However, for someone like me, who looks at those numbers a dozen times a day to stay on top of step goals, this is definitely a headache.

Steps count in the Activity app

There’s a step challenge at my office and I can’t take a quick look at my step count because my Apple Watch won’t let me do it. You should be able to see my daily step count right there on the watch face. What’s the point of having a smartwatch if it can’t show me the basics in my tips? I want Apple to eliminate these annoyances with quick access to step counting in watchOS 11.

5. A watch face store

Well, it’s not just me, a watch face store would definitely be on every Apple Watch user’s wish list. It’s been almost a decade since Apple launched its line of smartwatches and users still have to settle for watch faces of their own. The demand for third-party watch faces has been in the conversation since 2015, when the Apple Watch 1 was released. To calm things down and please its users, Apple adds a couple of new faces with each watchOS release. While we have some interesting options, the desire for third-party watch faces and customization options is still there.

apple watch faces

I want to see a watch face store in watchOS 11 that allows me to customize my watch face. There should be support for third-party watch faces that allows users to design and customize their watch faces or download ones created by other users. It would be a one-stop solution for sharing faces, downloading customizations, and more.

I know that’s unlikely to happen, especially when Apple issued a similar statement last year that third-party watch faces could ruin watchOS functionality. Well, I see it as an excuse, rather than a valid reason. There should be a way to take them into account and come up with something solid. Until that happens, I want Apple to at least add some flexibility to the first-party watch faces.

It would be fun if I could add a complication to the watch face, or if watchOS suggested some useful complications about my usage habits or the apps I use most on my smartwatch. Even if a watch face store is unlikely to be a watchOS 11 feature, I still want to have it very soon. I hope you’re listening Apple!

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