Apple's expected to launch a new Apple Watch later this year (which you can read about here: Apple Watch 3 rumours), but the company will also update the watchOS software, bringing new features to existing Apple Watch models.
We expect to get our first look at the new Apple Watch operating system at WWDC in June, with Apple previewing some of the new features there. Read on to find out what can we expect to see...
When will Apple release watchOS 4?
You can expect to see a preview of Watch OS 4 in June at WWDC, with the software update being available for download in September 2017. Read more about what to expect at WWDC here.
If you are signed up as a beta tester you may be able to download an early beta version of watchOS 4 as soon as June 2017. When the software arrives, here's How to update the watchOS.
What new features will come with watchOS 4
Here's a run down of the new features we are hoping to see in the next version of the watch operating system, along with some that are already being rumoured.
The new Apple Watch software will include new sports in the Activities app. Apple is testing skiing and snowboarding activities, according to a Gixmodo report based on an Environmental Health and Safety report.
Along with new Activities, there are calls for better sharing features for workouts and other activity. Fitness fanatics would like the opportunity to share their stats with friends, it seems.
Syncing workouts between Apple and third party apps can be flawed too so impovements here would be welcome.
One new feature that came in watchOS 3 was the ability to pause a workout by pressing the side button and Digital Crown simultaneously - unfortunately this feature isn’t available to third party apps, hopefully it will be in watchOS 4.
Similarly the watchOS 3 option to disable the touchscreen during a workout (or when you will be in water) would be a useful feature for third party apps.
The next Apple Watch will offer even more health tracking features if there is any foundation in rumours that Apple is testing diabetes monitoring hardware currently. If Apple is indeed looking at improving the health features of the new watch you can expect to see some additional software features which will hopefully be available for older models too.
Many fitness trackers and smartwatches feature sleep tracking functions that'll monitor your movement while asleep and offer you some kind of stat reflecting your sleep when you wake up - a feature that up until now has been missing from the Apple Watch (other than in the form of third party sleep tracking apps).
Not for much longer though, if a recent report is to be believed. Bloomberg claims that Apple is working on a new apps for that tracks a user's sleep. Apparently this feature will be supported across all existing models of Apple Watch.
The problem here has always been that sleep tracking required the Watch to have enough charge to be used overnight. Most Watch users plug in their watch overnight.
One saving grace is that it doesn't take long for the Apple Watch to charge, so owners keen to track their sleep could charge the Watch during the evening before bed, for example.
In the meantime, get a good night sleep with these Best iPhone sleep apps and alarm clock apps.
Always on time
This is one of the most requested features of the Apple Watch. It seems preposterous that a watch wouldn’t be able to show the time all the time. Apple’s decision not to have a watch face always on is seemingly to preserve battery life, but there are plenty of smartwatches on the market that do permanently tell the time so Apple looks amiss by not offering it.
Battery life is predominantly a hardware issue - and there are rumours that the next version of the Apple Watch could include a bigger battery via a new modular Watch strap. Read more here: Apple Watch 3 rumours.
New Watch faces
Speaking of the time, there are also calls for more choice when it comes to your Watch face. Currently there isn’t really much in the way of choice beyond the Watch faces Apple offers. There are faces from Hermes and Nike, but people would like to see Watch faces from third-parties.
How about a Watch face store for the Apple Watch?
As for the the Complications that compliment the Watch faces, and can be provided by third parties, these are only allowed to update no more than 50 times per day. This can be a limitation for some Complications so its something we hope will change in watchOS4.
For now, this is as far as you can get with the opportunity to change the Watch face, read: How to change Apple Watch faces.
Apple Watch Customization
The watch Face is just one way of personalising your Apple Watch. We’d like to see Apple introduce new ways of customising the device.
For example, it would be nice to add custom ringtones and tones for alerts. You could even learn to understand exactly what your Watch is telling you without even lifting your wrist just by the type of vibration.
Siri improvements on Apple Watch
SiriKit recently arrived on the Apple Watch in a WatchOS 3.2 update. The update will allow third-party apps to work with Siri.
An issue some people have with the Watch is that Siri won’t work when you aren’t online - so basically whenever you don’t have your iPhone handy.
For example, if you leave your iPhone at home and head out for a jog you won’t be able to use Siri to open apps or play particular tracks from your music collection. Given how difficult the Apple Watch interface can be to navigate this would make selecting certain settings in the OS a whole lot easier when you are out and about.
You can now automatically unlock your Mac with your Apple Watch, how about your iPhone and iPad?
It would also be useful if you could sync your Apple Watch with more than one device - your iPhone and your iPad for example.
We’d like to see a few more additions to the Control Centre that arrived in watchOS 3.
We love the Dock that arrived in watchOS 3 and can be accessed by pressing the side button, we'd like to see this evolve too.
With the addition of Control Centre and the Dock in WatchOS 3 the navigation of the Watch interface became slightly easier. But we’d like to see changes to make the Home Screen a little more user friendly.
We’d like to be able to add folders, for example, as that might make it easier to navigate to apps.
In many ways the difficulty with the Home Screen is down to the fact that the icons are circular - which doesn’t really make sense given the fact that the Watch face is rectangle. With square icons Apple could make better use of the space.
An other way to help you navigate icons could be to choose for commonly used icons to be bigger than other icons, to make them easier to spot.
The ability to remove Apple apps would be helpful here too.
Changes to the Digital Crown
The Digital Crown button, found on the side of the Apple Watch would be a great way to provide extra functionality to Apple Watch owners.
We’d like to see the Digital Crown take on a volume control function in certain apps, for example.
New Apple Watch Apps
We’d like to see the Notes app arrive on the Apple Watch. While it’s unlikely you will be writing (or rather dictating) long notes on the Apple Watch it would be useful to be able to access your existing Notes on that device.
If you are like us Notes tends to be a go to app for any piece of information you want to have at your fingertips so having access to this on your Watch could be useful.
Another app people want to see make it way to the Apple Watch is the Podcast app.
Being able to listen to audiobooks in iBooks would also be welcome.
The calculator app is another one we’d like to see on the Watch.
We also hope that third party developers will increase activity in the Watch area.