Rumor: Apple Watch widgets are making a comeback in watchOS 10

iPhone-like Apple Watch widgets will bring glanceable information and reduce the need to launch apps, becoming a central part of the watchOS 10 interface.

Space Gray Apple Watch SE showcasing the Home Screen with the deafult honeycomb app grid
Will widgets save us from clunky Apple Watch apps? | Image: Auguras Pipiras/Unsplash
  • Widgets should be a core part of Apple’s upcoming watchOS 10 update.
  • The Digital Crown may be repurposed to show widgets instead of apps.
  • Apple Watch originally had widgets, but they were later removed.

watchOS 10 rumored to bring back Apple Watch widgets

As part of the original Apple Watch’s launch in 2015, the watchOS software provided a feature called Glances that presented users with a scrollable list of widgets.

The primary idea was to give users glanceable information like the current weather, stocks, news and more without wasting time waiting for apps to load.

Unfortunately, widgets were dropped in subsequent watchOS releases. However, widgets are now slated to make a comeback in a major way.

In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter on Bloomberg, Mark Gurman says widgets will play a central role in this year’s upcoming watchOS 10 update which should combine the discontinued Glances system and iPhone-like widgets.

The plan is to let users scroll through a series of different widgets—for activity tracking, weather, stock tickers, calendar appointments and more—rather than having them launch apps.

So the basic premise of widgets has mostly stayed the same: quick, glanceable information that saves you from loading apps. Widgets are lightweight and built around web technologies, making them responsive and easy to use.

watchOS 10 will make Apple Watch widgets “a central part” of the interface:

The new interface will be reminiscent of the Siri watch face introduced in watchOS 4, but it will be available as an overlay for any watch face. It’s also similar to widget stacks, a feature in iOS and iPadOS that lets users pile many widgets into one and scroll through them.

The Digital Crown button, which currently takes you to the Home Screen, may be repurposed in watchOS 10 to bring up your widgets as Apple is reportedly “testing the idea of changing the functions of some of the watch’s buttons.”

Quick access to snippets of information

This year’s Apple Watch models are expected to be pretty similar to last year’s lineup, but the watchOS 10 update will make up for that with widgets:

In light of that, watchOS 10 will give people what they want: even quicker access to bits of information. Still, the shift may be jarring for some longtime Apple Watch users. That’s why I wouldn’t be surprised if the company considers making the new interface optional, at least initially.

This is one of those changes that should be turned on by default, even if this means temporarily confusing some people. If implemented correctly, widgets should appeal more to users than Apple Watch apps.

A short history of widgets on Apple devices

Widgets are handy. The Mac has had them since the early times through a Dashboard feature. On mobile, Google’s Android software popularized widgets.

Apple’s been experimenting with widget-like features for the iPhone over the years until it finally brought out a comprehensive widgets system in iOS 14. iPhone widgets are available on the Lock Screen, Home Screen and Today view.

Widgets were later brought to the iPad. The upcoming iOS and iPadOS 17 software should make widgets interactive with buttons, toggles, sliders and similar elements.

Why Apple Watch is the perfect device for widgets

Currently, widgets act as quick shortcuts to specific places in apps, restricting their utility. For instance, the Gmail widget can’t enable you to mark a message as read or delete an email. When widgets become interactive, this will change, too, so you’ll be able to accomplish even more than before without actually using apps.

This will be especially important on the Apple Watch. As you know, apps on Apple’s wearable device are still not very compelling, and many developers have stopped making them. This is reflected in usage numbers: the watchOS App Store has fewer than one million active users in Europe.

Part of the blame is on Apple—its tools for building native watchOS apps are still too restrictive. There’s also the issue of constrained resources which continues to negatively affect the experience of using apps on the Apple Watch.

Widgets may very well be the right answer to the Apple Watch app problem.

Tutorials about widgets