Top 5 Features I Want in watchOS 11

From being classified as a trendy piece of tech to establishing itself as a feature-rich health wearable, Apple Watches have come a long way. Despite Apple incorporating some new features into its watchOS updates annually, those advanced health sensors are not fully utilized. The 10th anniversary of Apple Watch is approaching next year, and I am optimistic about witnessing a substantial new hardware upgrade alongside top-tier software enhancements. Let’s set aside the hardware discussion for another time and focus on the 5 watchOS 11 features I would undeniably appreciate seeing in 2024.

1. Programmable Side Button

The initial feature that I desire in watchOS 11 is a customizable side button. Since Apple introduced watchOS 10, it altered the method by which users could access the Control Center & App Switcher, eliciting a plethora of negative feedback. Users were perplexed about accessing the Control Center in watchOS 10, with many users expressing discontent. It’s understandable that users do not appreciate Apple tampering with their long-established habits.

The Apple Watch Ultra and Apple Watch Ultra 2 possess an additional programmable Action Button, unlike the standard Apple Watch series. Instead of redistributing the functionality across the side Button, swipes, and the Digital Crown, it would be advantageous to have a customizable side button on the Apple Watch. For example, I could initiate a workout by pressing the side button once. Moreover, considering my frequent use of the Stopwatch on my smartwatch, I could assign that action to the side button.
My envisage also encompasses customizing the side button with double presses. For instance, I could use a single press of the side button to access the Control Center and a double press to launch the Workout app. Nevertheless, since Apple did not provide this feature on the iPhone 15 Pro’s action button and Apple Watch Ultra models, it is unlikely to see the double-press feature anytime soon. Nonetheless, we can always dream, can’t we? Therefore, a programmable side button in watchOS 11 is not an excessive demand.

2. Redesigned Nightstand Mode with AOD

The second desired feature in watchOS 11 is a revamped Nightstand mode. Ever since its inception, the Apple Watch has sported a monotonous Nightstand Mode that solely displays red/green icons battery symbols, a Digital Watch, and upcoming alarms. I firmly believe that we have outgrown that mundane, unproductive Nightstand mode. The 2024 Apple Watch update must usher in a completely revamped Nightstand mode that offers customization.

I yearn for an analog watch in Nightstand mode. Furthermore, it would be incredibly delightful to embellish the night mode with photos. Essentially, I expect watchOS 11 to present something akin to StandBy mode on iOS 17. I should be able to incorporate widgets and tailor the Nightstand mode to align with my preferences.
Moreover, I aspire for watchOS 11 to integrate Always-On functionality into the Apple Watch Nightstand mode. Currently, the nightstand mode activates when the Apple Watch is charging. The screen remains lit for a brief period before automatically shutting off until I tap on the screen again. With watchOS 11, Apple should introduce an Always-On Nightstand mode that displays easily accessible information constantly.
Considering that the Apple Watch Series 5 and subsequent models feature the Always-on feature, integrating it into the Nightstand mode should pose no challenge. If these smartwatches can manage AOD while worn on the wrist, there should be no hindrance in doing so when connected to a charger. I do not expect Apple to unveil a brand-new feature; I simply urge it to extend the Always-On functionality to the night mode. Naturally, there should be an option to dim the brightness to prevent disturbing light sleepers. Additionally, akin to the iPhone 14 Pro and 15 Pro models, there should be an option to deactivate the Always-On StandBy mode entirely.

3. Deeper and Easy to Understand Health Insights

I am of the opinion that the Apple Watch and watchOS have progressed over time. However, they lack certain advanced features that should have been incorporated by now. Furthermore, I find that the Apple Watch presents convoluted information that is arduous for a casual user to decipher. At times, I am bombarded with copious amounts of information that I struggle to comprehend on that diminutive screen. I expect watchOS 11 to render everything more seamless and comprehensible.
I anticipate the following health features in watchOS 11. Allow me to elucidate them.

Better Sleep Tracking

Apple introduced sleep tracking with watchOS 8 and enhanced it significantly in watchOS 9. Nonetheless, I believe that Apple still lags behind the competition in terms of sleep tracking. While the Apple Watch furnishes insights into diverse sleep stages (Deep, Core, REM) alongside resting heart rate and respiratory rate, I muse whether this tracking is adequate and intelligent enough. In the absence of a fixed bedtime and wake-up routine, accurate data cannot be obtained. Additionally, the current sleep tracking on the Apple Watch overlooks naps and brief breaks as they are not part of nocturnal sleep schedules.
I anticipate watchOS 11 to deliver smarter sleep tracking that adapts automatically to my routine, providing superior insights into the quality of my sleep. Furthermore, it should inform me if I have slept sufficiently to prepare for the workout or hectic schedule awaiting me the following day.

Stress and Anxiety tracking

Considering my watchOS 11 wishlist, one of my primary requests is stress and anxiety tracking. I opine that mental health is equally, if not more crucial than physical health. Stress and anxiety impact overall well-being, impeding our emotional, mental, and physical prowess. While the Apple Watch can monitor fitness levels using the Activity app, it lacks a robust mechanism to monitor mental well-being. I hope watchOS 11 can detect stress and anxiety levels, alert users in high-stress situations, and delineate ways to unwind.
While there are third-party watchOS apps that can monitor stress levels, I yearn for an integrated functionality that provides a comprehensive perspective.

Smarter Rings

Since 2014, Apple Watches have employed activity rings to gauge how vigorous or active your lifestyle is. Despite it being 2024, those rings have remained unaltered. Not to be overly critical, but I view the 3-ring fitness system as detrimental, forceful, and not presenting the entire narrative. It tracks your accomplishments and proffers more challenging goals upon their completion.
While this may serve certain users well, the system is futile for athletes or other fitness aficionados with a focus on muscle-building or weight gain. Where’s the emphasis on rest and recovery? Additionally, the Apple Watch fails to discern the user’s intent.
Another deficiency in watchOS is the inability to sustain a streak when you take a day off. Everything operates smoothly when you fulfill your goals each day; however, if you’re fatigued one day, your rings get skewed. This is patently unjust. Apple Watch should introduce a feature akin to Fitbit’s Daily Readiness Score that comprehends your body better, providing personalized workout intensity and recovery recommendations.
Move, Stand, and Exercise objectives should not be the sole health metrics. Apple Watch should also incorporate mental health, rest & recovery, and abrupt life changes. To summarize, I wish for watchOS 11 to introduce more intelligent rings that do not incessantly urge you for more.
There should be a method to incorporate rest days manually or obtain personalized recommendations for rest days. Come on Apple, rest is pivotal! Instead of inundating alerts to step out & exercise, I would rejoice if watchOS 11 could dispatch motivational quotes and commend me for persevering through the day when I feel on the verge of quitting.

AI-generated health summary

I am eagerly anticipating iOS 18 and the smarter “Siri 2.0” founded on generative AI. With that in mind, I aspire for watchOS 11 to leverage AI and provide understandable health insights. Currently, the Apple Watch dispenses information in graphs and reports that at times seem insufficient and overwhelming. However, they all share a commonality- they are not readily understandable.
I envision the inclusion of an AI-generated health summary feature in watchOS 11 that furnishes an easily graspable summary covering all essentials sans any jargon. Just contemplate how effortless it would be to understand the ECG graphs and prolonged sleep-tracking reports. Moreover, I could request Siri to display my sleep or workout summary.

4. Quick Access to Steps Count

If you query me regarding my dislike for Apple Watch, it would undeniably be the convoluted access to the steps count. Why must I navigate to the Activity app every instance I wish to peruse my steps? I recognize, for someone who scarcely tracks steps or does it sporadically, this would not be an issue. However, for someone like me, who glances at those numbers numerous times a day to remain on top of the steps goal, this is certainly a headache.

A step challenge is underway in my workplace, and I encounter barriers to swiftly glancing at my step count as my Apple Watch does not facilitate this. I should be able to view my daily step count directly on the watch face. What purpose does a smartwatch serve if it cannot present the basics at my fingertips? I implore Apple to eliminate these hindrances with quick access to steps count in watchOS 11.

5. A Watch Face Store

A watch face store would undeniably be on the wishlist of every Apple Watch user, not just mine. Nearly a decade has elapsed since Apple unveiled its smartwatch line-up, yet users still have to contend with first-party watch faces. The clamor for third-party watch faces has pervaded discussions since 2015, with the release of the Apple Watch 1. To assuage concerns and appease its users, Apple introduces a couple of new faces with each watchOS release. While we receive some commendable options, the desire for third-party watch faces and customization options remains prevalent.

I envision a watch face store in watchOS 11 that empowers me to personalize my watch face. Third-party watch faces should be supported to enable users to design & customize their watch faces or download creations crafted by other users. It would serve as a centralized platform to share faces, acquire customizations, and more.
I understand the improbability of this materializing, particularly when Apple issued a similar statement last year suggesting that third-party watch faces might disrupt watchOS functionality. This resonates more as an excuse rather than a legitimate rationale. There should be a way to account for these concerns and formulate a robust solution. Until that transpires, I implore Apple to infuse a degree of flexibility into the first-party watch faces.
It would be delightful if I could integrate a complication into a watch face or if watchOS recommended useful complications based on my usage habits or preferred apps on my smartwatch. Even if a watch face store is unlikely to materialize as a watchOS 11 feature, I yearn for

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