Apple Watch software updates over the years have been quite small. watchOS 7 improved the Apple Watch’s user interface and watchOS 8 added a few useful apps. Apple’s watchOS 9 should bring the most significant update to the user experience.
The Apple Watch interface has a few key components: the clock, the Home Screen and control center. Although all four of these components are excellent, they feel a little stale. The Home Screen could be simpler to use and more organized. The Watch Faces could be more entertaining and less utilitarian. Notifications and apps should be able surface data in more places.
Watch faces are new
Four new watch faces were created for watchOS 9. This is the first of four new watch faces for watchOS 9. Three designs are possible: one that displays full-screen stripes of the six-color logo; one that applies six colors to numbers and hands; and one that has a beige background.
The notifications face could look a lot like Siri’s. It could display recent notifications in a stack instead of showing data cards in a stack. If someone raises his wrist, they will instantly see the most recent alerts. This is ideal for those who are constantly on the move or for people who use their watch for communication.
Ted Lasso’s face is one I have designed numerous times. This iteration I covered the entire display in the same blue color as used in almost all marketing materials. Ted could wave at you or be animated. The time could be written in words at the top left. It could be used to replace “ten” with “Ted” whenever it is needed.
The relax face could use the animations from watchOS 8 to create a new clock that is psychedelic. Based on the animation, the color of the time may change. The animation changes every time you raise your wrist.
The Apple Watch would be enriched with the freshness of these four faces. One honors the company’s past, one promotes its best character, one encourages relaxation and well-being, and one keeps you up-to date.
The Home Screen
Over the past six years, Apple Watch Home Screen has undergone a few minor changes. The original screen featured a honeycomb-shaped sea with circular icons. Later, a simple alphabetical listing view was added. Both views are not ideal. Both are difficult to use and manage, and neither one can be customized. I hope watchOS 9 will bring a new design to the Home Screen.
I see a vertically scrolling grid that has rows of three icons. It’s possible to drag icons to any location, making it fully customizable. Drag one icon over another to create a folder. The icons expand after you tap on the folder. You can place folders wherever you like and make as many as you wish.
Control center + widgets
WatchOS 1 and watchOS 2 had a feature called “glances.” These were small widgets that you could access by tapping up on the clock face. In watchOS 1, glances were limited to a single glance. With watchOS 3, these glances disappeared and control center expanded. Apple should bring back glances, but with the smaller widget sizes from iOS 14. This would allow those who don’t have data-rich watches faces to quickly access complication-style information. Developers could also use this area to create software that can be used with the watch, but it doesn’t have to be an app. Apple’s new widgets are already cross-platform.
Widgets could have the same design as the iPhone’s, so there would not be any need for new design work. Developers could send a widget rather than an entire app. This would reduce the development time and management required for a full app. Apple could allow widgets created from iPhone apps to project onto their watchOS apps if they wanted. We know this didn’t work with watchOS 1 but our devices are much faster and might work this time. Pebble watches could have been used by developers to upload data over the internet to the watch back in the day. This might also work.
Apple could also use widgets to add new functionality to its already overcrowded Home Screen. The battery widget could be added to your watch to show the status of your phone’s batteries. iCloud already shows you your device’s battery status in Find My. What if you could also choose to display certain devices in this widget? I would love to see my iPad’s battery status on the watch. Widgets can also be used to create shortcuts. Widgets can be used to display buttons that allow you to automate, such as Siri suggestions and Shortcuts.
The Apple Watch App Store is not what we hoped it would be. The majority of people use the built-in apps, and may download a few from the store. Developers have given up on their watch apps for many reasons. The WatchKit SDK is a mess. Early apps were slow and users may not have cared about the functionality. They also require maintenance in addition to the work required for your iPhone app. Most developers have given up on any hopes they had for watchOS-related software. This is a niche market.