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10 Thoughts: WatchOS 4 Wishlist

I recently bought an Apple Watch, again (there’s a long-winding story behind this; for another day, perhaps). I have now lived with Pebble, Fitbit, Android Wear and Apple Watch and have a pretty clear idea about what I want my smartwatch to do. With WatchOS 3 and Apple Watch Series 2, Apple too showed that they knew what smartwatches were best for – fitness and notifications (and watchbands, loads of them!) and I’m sure that they have a pretty clear idea about what they want to add, remove and improve in WatchOS 4 to make the Apple Watch experience even better. That said, as we count the days down to WWDC 2017 where we’ll surely see the newest iteration of Apple’s newest operating system, here are 10 of my thoughts about what I’d want to see on my Apple Watch the next time I raise my wrist.

1. My biggest want from my Apple Watch (which I use primarily for tracking my fitness-related activities) has to be a way to access my activity information someplace other than my phone. Apple, come on, you already have a robust cloud service in the form of iCloud. You could easily create an Activty Dashboard on iCloud.com. My friend, Matt Birchler, even designed it for you to make your life easier.

2. Another thing which can easily be and should be implemented (at the cost of a little battery life, I guess) is ambient mode to show time on the “watch” without having to raise it. The raise-to-wake feature always works without a hitch for me but when I’m not in a position to raise my hand and need to check them time, a sly glance at my “watch” should show me the time. Apple already has a very minimal (and I’m sure, battery-efficient) watchface in the form of Numerals. Time to take it to the next level, Apple.

3. Another must for me has to be a better implementation of the music-control widget/extension on the Apple Watch. The easiest, and arguably, the most efficient, way to get this done is by adding the music-control extension to the control center on the Apple Watch. iOS already does it quite well. I don’t want to have to press the side button, swipe to the music-control extension, tap on it and then tap on ‘next’ every time I want to skip a song in the middle of a run. This is a must, Apple. Seriously, if this doesn’t happen, I’ll be flipping quite a few tables in frustration!

4. After talking about a few must-have changes, I’d like to focus on a few good-to-have changes in WatchOS 4 which would elevate the Apple Watch experience and leave competitors in the dust, the first being Activity Insights. Apple now has access to the activity data of millions of users over a couple of years. In addition to suggesting a new ‘Move’ goal every week based on my activity levels the previous week, it’d be great if I could see more insights based on the activity levels of people in my age, gender and height-weight group to spur me to better my activity routines.

5. If it is not clear by now, activity tracking is the single, most important feature of the Apple Watch for me. I’m addicted to closing my Activity Rings daily and the days I, somehow, don’t wear my Apple Watch, I don’t even feel like getting up and moving around. On that note, it’d be great if the Apple Watch could automatically track my exercise during the day (like Fitbit does) and show me a timeline of how active I was during the day (like Google Fit and S Heath). Automatic exercise tracking will be a boon for all the times I’m just walking around the house and reading.

6. Another fitness-based feature that the Apple Watch doesn’t have (due to battery constraints) is sleep tracking. I, for one, won’t be using the feature even if it makes its debut with WatchOS 4 as I don’t like to be wearing stuff while I sleep. That said, I know that this is a feature many people are asking for and it will bring the Apple Watch to feature parity with Fitbit and other fitness platforms.

7. Speaking of fitness-based features I won’t be using even if they are implemented in WatchOS 4, there is food-tracking. Apple could get into it (I highly doubt that it’ll happen, though) but I’m sure I won’t be able to use it well because logging Indian food on any platform (I’ve tried Lifesum, MyFitnessPal, Up and Fitbit) is always a nightmare. Still, if implemented, it’ll be a good feature to have for the people who care about it and will make Apple’s Activity and Health apps one-stop-shops for all our fitness-data needs.

8. Let’s talk about a couple of features which aren’t fitness-related. For one, I’d really appreciate some form of Proactive Siri incorporated through complications on watchfaces. I could, maybe, set up the biggest complication on my watchface to be proactive and based on the time of day or what I’m doing then, it could surface information which is useful (e.g. weather forecast in the morning, to-do and meetings during the day, quick-start workout in the evening, etc.). This would not only make the Apple Watch infinitely more useful but also help set Siri apart from other assistants.

9.  One big feature on the Apple Watch that could use some reimagining would be apps. In their current form, emulating the experience on iOS devices, apps range from clunky and slow to downright frustrating to deal with. I have two, just two, third party apps installed on my Apple Watch right now (for their complications). I really liked the widget-implementation of apps in WatchOS 1. It was really slow at that time but it surfaced information and actions that were actually useful from apps. I’d love if Apple did away with the honeycomb menu and converted the press-digital-crown action to accessing app-extensions. They’d not only be more useful but also faster (they should follow the 3-second rule when it comes to interacting with a smartwatch) and light on battery and system resources, making the app and the Apple Watch, snappier.

10. To round out my wishlist for WatchOS 4, I’d like to talk about a feature everyone seems to be wanting but I’m quite wary of. An app store for watchfaces. I had a really bad experience with third-party watchfaces on Android Wear and I understand why Apple hasn’t opened the floodgates here. I’m sure Apple will be able to implement this feature in a better way through their trademark walled-garden approach and we’ll surely see some genuinely good watchfaces if an app store is indeed launched with WatchOS 4.

Bonus wish: Apple, please let me set my Exercise Ring goal to something other than 30 minutes. I want to exercise for 60 minutes, dammit!

Those were my thoughts about what I’d want to see in WatchOS 4. What do you think? What are the features that, if not implemented on WatchOS 4 will lead to a lot of frustrated-table-flipping from you?

 

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