The Top New Features in Apple’s WatchOS 10

The company’s quest to unseat Garmin continues with a new fullscreen cycling mode and other navigation features.
Apple Watches in various colors
Photograph: Apple

Last year, Apple introduced the Apple Watch Ultra, a fitness wearable meant to compete with Garmin in the premium outdoor watch category. The Ultra didn’t quite meet the mark—for starters, battery life that barely lasts three days is not enough for the shortest backpacking trip—but Apple’s quest continues. The company announced the next version of WatchOS at WWDC, WatchOS 10, and many of the new features are determinedly creeping into Garmin territory.

That’s in addition to the usual roundup of new and improved software, like easier navigation on the watch face, newly redesigned apps, and new watch faces. We break down the top new features below. Read our guides on iOS 17 and MacOS Sonoma to learn what's new on those platforms, and don’t forget to check out our Best Apple Watch and Best Apple Watch Accessories guides.

Is Your Apple Watch Compatible?

Apple's WatchOS 10 update will be available for the Apple Watch Series 4 and newer. However, you'll need to have an iPhone XS or iPhone XR or later running iOS 17 (find out which iPhones support iOS 17 here). To find what model you have, look at the back of your Apple Watch. 

When Will WatchOS 10 Arrive?

WatchOS 10 is currently in developer beta, but a public beta is expected to land in July. You'll be able to test it out then but expect to run into a few bugs. The betas will continue through to the fall, and the final version will likely launch in September. 

Top WatchOS 10 Features

We've parsed out some of the top new features arriving in the next version of WatchOS. To read the full list, you can check out Apple's preview page here.

Biking Updates
Photograph: Apple

We first saw Apple begin to focus on outdoor activities with 2021’s Apple Watch Series 7, which was more dustproof than ever, and offered improved fall detection and the ability to differentiate between ebiking and regular biking when auto-sensing workouts. Last year, WatchOS 9 introduced running-specific features, like measuring vertical oscillation and stride length. 

Now, the watch and the iPhone together are becoming a specialized cycling tool that looks a lot like a dedicated bike computer. When you download WatchOS 10 and start a cycling workout on the watch, it immediately shows up as a Live Activity on your phone. Tap it, and the Live Activity immediately switches to a full-screen Workout View that displays important information like your heart rate zone and your route. This allows you to mount your phone on your handlebars, make sure you’re in the correct heart rate zone, and not get lost.

The Apple Watch can also automatically connect to Bluetooth-enabled sensors in WatchOS 10, like power meters and cadence sensors, which lets you see metrics like your rotations per minute (RPM) on your watch or Workout View. It can use all this new data to calculate your Functional Threshold Power (FTP), which is a measure of your highest cycling output over the course of an hour. The watch uses this data to calculate your personalized Power Zones as you work out. Zone training is complicated. Essentially, low-intensity zones let you up your endurance, high-intensity zones up your power, and switching between the two helps you fine-tune your performance.

It’s worth noting that whether you’re running, swimming, or cycling, an FTP assessment has historically been done with a specific format at specific times in your training to prepare for a peak performance event. This is a niche metric. But you will also be able to use all your personalized data to create your own custom workout plan in Apple Fitness+.

Hiking Updates
Photograph: Apple

Last year, the Apple Watch Ultra introduced new navigational features to assist with outdoor adventures, but it had one big flaw—there were no offline maps nor any topographic maps. 

WatchOS 10 includes new topographic maps in the US (iOS 17 also offers offline maps on iPhones, with access to turn-by-turn directions on the watch). The compass app includes a new Elevation view with a 3D view of saved waypoints. Those waypoints also include two automatically generated waypoints: the Last Cellular Connection waypoint for checking messages or making a call, and the Last Emergency Call waypoint from which you can call for emergency assistance.

Mental and Visual Health
Photograph: Apple

Spending lots of time outside—between 80 to 120 minutes, to be precise—has been linked to a number of positive mental and physical health outcomes for both adults and children. As such, Apple has a new feature called Time in Daylight in WatchOS 10 that uses the ambient light sensor on the Apple Watch to measure how much time you spend outside.

Not only can you view your own data on your iPhone or iPad, but you can also keep track of how much time your children spend outside. If your children have Apple Watches, you can use Health Sharing in Family Setup to make sure they’re spending enough time outside as well. 

Finally, the Mindfulness app on the Apple Watch offers different shapes that let you record how you feel in the moment while offering the chance to identify factors that may be contributing to it. Apple says there's access to clinical-grade depression and anxiety assessments to help determine your risk level and if you should see a health care professional.

Software and Design Updates
Video: Apple

The Apple Watch is one of the most popular and easily-navigable smartwatches; however, that isn’t saying much. Flipping through data on a tiny screen is still hard and irritating. In WatchOS 10, things are getting a little better as you can flip through all your widgets on the Smart Stack. Simply turn the digital crown to scroll. If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, Apple's machine learning can help you identify which widget is most relevant at certain times. For example, if you’re traveling, your boarding passes will shuffle to the top.

Apps have also been redesigned to take better advantage of the screen. For example, you can scroll through the World Clock app to find the best time to call your friend overseas. You can also activate the Control Center just by pushing the side button. 

Photograph: Apple

There is a whole host of smaller updates to go along with iOS 17, including NameDrop, to share contact information by bringing your watch close to someone else’s iPhone or Apple Watch; follow-up medication reminders; and the ability to watch FaceTime messages on your watch.

Finally—and this is the most hotly anticipated feature of every year’s WatchOS update—the new watch faces are Palette, whose colors shift as time moves, plus a Snoopy and Woodstock face. Snoopy and Woodstock will interact with the hands, play with each other, get rained on when you get rained on, and do your workout along with you. Just don’t ask the watch to display Snoopy’s FTP.