5 ways the Apple Watch could be even better

Over the past five years, the Apple Watch has emerged as the king of smartwatches, but there remains a lot of room for improvement.

We’d like to see some improvements that would probably require significant changes to the Apple Watch’s architecture—such as much better battery life or improved Siri capabilities—but most of the suggestions below should work well even on existing Apple Watches.

Customizable always-on display

I adore the Apple Watch Series 5’s always-on display. Unfortunately, it only works with two things: whatever watch face is active and Apple’s Workout app. If you’re using any other app, the app’s interface blurs for privacy when you turn your wrist away and a simple floating clock pops up.

apple watch always onLeif Johnson/IDG

I’ve got my app for San Francisco’s Muni service open, but you can barely tell.

Two options aren’t enough. Apple should let us choose which apps work with the always-on display through toggles in Settings. If it refuses to extend that privilege to third-party apps—and let’s admit it, it probably will—then it should at least allow it for native apps like Timer and Stopwatch.

Also, with the current design, the always-on display stays true to its name even when you’re asleep. When we turn on either Do Not Disturb or Theater Mode, Apple should either dim the display further or make it so it completely turns off when we’re not looking at it.

Sleep tracking

We’ve been saying we want sleep tracking on the Apple Watch for years, and we’ll keep saying it until Apple delivers. And it almost certainly will, considering that Apple bought Beddit back in 2017.

Apple may not be in too much of a hurry to introduce sleep tracking because you can already use third-party apps like AutoSleep and Pillow, and both are excellent. The iPhone maker has an intimate understanding of how well its hardware and software work together, though, and so there’s a good chance that whatever it creates will probably be better.

Right now the biggest riddle to solve is probably how to introduce sleep tracking without sacrificing too much battery life. Apple needs to figure that out soon. As my colleague Michael Simon argued in 2018, sleep tracking is one of the most compelling remaining reasons to buy a device like a Fitbit Versa 2 over an Apple Watch.

Third-party Apple Watch faces

Apple introduced several new watch faces with the Series 4 and Series 5, but overall the library of available faces remains tiny. You can pull off some creative tricks with the Photos watch face, but even then your options are slim.

apple watch series 5 macworldLeif Johnson/IDG

This Macworld watch face I made is still formatted for the Series 3, unfortunately.

Third-party watch faces technically exist, but Apple keeps a tight leash on them by limiting them to pricey premium editions from partners like Hermès or Nike. Apple likely worries that introducing more watch faces would diminish the exclusivity of those devices.

Yet a larger library of watch faces…


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