Learn about watchOS 10: Apple Watch widgets, Control Center, watch face changes, and more

WatchOS 10 beta

The biggest change to watchOS this year is probably the introduction of widgets. Visible data is no longer limited by watch face customization. Adding widgets comes with a shuffle of how you navigate watchOS 10, and some watch faces are even affected.

userOS UX

watchOS 10 relearns a few things about which buttons and scroll invocations, and an updated tutorial during setup points you in the right direction. Here’s what’s new:

  • Swiping up from the bottom on a watch face brings up widgets (most of the time)
  • Clicking the side button brings it to life in the Control Center
  • Double-clicking the digital crown takes you to the Dock (if we still call it that)

In watchOS 9, a swipe up opened the Control Center, the side button opened the Dock, and double-clicking the crown lets you switch to the last used app and back.

All of this shuffling is mostly in service of the summoning widgets, which can also be lowered by turning the digital crown clockwise.

watchOS no longer refers to the Dock, however, and it no longer feels customizable. You can purge apps from this multitasking interface by swiping right to left to reveal an X button.

Also, the ability to switch between watch faces with an edge-to-edge swipe is no longer present in watchOS 10 beta 1. This is back to long press and swipe or swipe to move from face to face.

Unrelated to these changes is the revamp of the grid app layout. If you’ve preferred the list view for a more manageable experience, you might want to revisit the grid. It’s in great shape now, as the honeycomb has instead become a vertical stream of app icons.

Look at the conflicts in front

Let’s go back to the impact of widgets on user experience. While you can swipe up from (nearly) any watch face to reveal your collection of widgets, the more rote method is to swipe up on the Digital Crown. This presents a conflict with a dial on some watches.

Apple Watch Ultra includes a hardware-exclusive watch face called Wayfinder. One of its unique features is the night mode. This replaces the dial color with a red and black theme that’s easier on the eyes in the dark. It also requires less eye adjustment when switching from the clock display to, say, the stars in the sky.

How do I invoke night mode? Swipe up on the Digital Crown! That behavior will only last a year. Night mode is still there, but you have to long press the watch face, tap Change, scroll to the third customization option, and rotate the crown to switch between modes.

This is definitely not as simple as originally designed. Bright side? The chance of accidentally entering or exiting night mode is now practically zero.

While night mode has been buried by widgets, watchOS 10 includes a third option, “Auto.” After a quick test in a dark room, it’s clear that it’s based on sensing ambient light. Frankly, this is more useful than the “turn crown to manually activate” method.

Then there’s the Siri watch face. The new widget system is very similar to Siri’s watch face design. You have control over data sources and can scroll through tiles by scrolling up and down.

So does the new widget system in watchOS 10 supercharge the Siri watch face with even more expansion? Not in beta 1. Siri watch face does not have access to widgets.


Some other interesting facts about watchOS 10 and widgets:

  • You can touch and hold to pin, add or remove widgets right on your watch.
  • Digital Clock Faces include a digital clock widget at the top of the widget stack; analog watch faces use an analog clock.
  • Unlike watch faces and apps, widgets still don’t have an always-on display mode. Lowering your wrist calls up the always-on display version of the watch face.

watchOS 10 is currently in developer beta. Future beta releases may change any of these behaviors before the final release. We will keep you updated!

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