Apple Watch to see its biggest software update since its 2015 debut, report says

The Apple Watch’s software is due to get its biggest update since its release, according to a new report by Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. Though details on the watchOS 10’s updated design were sparse to non-existent, the report teases Apple’s plans to introduce a revamped interface for its popular wearable at this year’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in June, alongside its mixed-reality headset, new Mac laptops and iOS 17.

While the updated versions of iOS and iPadOS were previously said to be more minor releases bringing several of users’ most requested features, and possibly the groundwork for sideloading apps onto the devices from outside the App Store, the watchOS update may be even more significant, if the report holds true.

This isn’t the first time Gurman has reported on Apple’s plans to update the Apple Watch’s operating system with the new watchOS, but it does now position the upgrade as the most significant user interface update since the Watch’s launch, which was not previously known.

Earlier this month, Gurman had only said the new watchOS should be a “fairly extensive upgrade” with changes to the user interface.

The Apple Watch’s software hasn’t received a major overhaul in terms of its user interface since its debut in 2015. But plenty of designers have taken their own shots at a makeover with various watchOS concepts that rethink the home screen from the array of tiny apps you navigate with a finger to those that embrace different ideas — including more iPhone-like concepts that also support widgets or app folders, among other things.

According to Gurman’s latest, the updated watchOS 10 will “bring bigger enhancements” than the releases planned for iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple TV. This includes the “updated interface,” that will tell you “most of what you need to know about the Apple Watch in 2023,” he says. The report notes that the rest of the hardware changes will be minimal so the software update will be the Watch’s biggest news and main focus.

Little more was said about what the updated interface could include, but parsing the wording carefully could lead one to believe it’s not a complete overhaul of the interface, as it’s being referred to as an “update” not a “redesign.”

Still, there’s a lot of anticipation for a fresh experience for the Apple Watch, whose software is starting to feel a little dated after numerous iOS releases that have rethought how apps are organized and engaged with, including the introductions of things like automatically organized folders in the App Library, interactive widgets via Live Activities, and both Home Screen and Lock Screen widgets for displaying live app information. Of course, all these ideas can’t necessarily translate directly to a smartwatch interface — which uses complications, not widgets to display info, for example, and where limited screen real estate requires different ideas and types of interactions.

To date, that’s led to most watchOS releases being more minor tweaks, with most of the user interface changes coming via things like new watch faces.

Apple’s WWDC 2023 will run from June 5 through June 9, kicking off with the company’s keynote address where Apple is expected to release its new AR/VR headset and the xrOS powering it, alongside other software updates.