My favorite watchOS 10 feature, no one will care

Apple calls watchOS 10 a “milestone update for the Apple Watch”. I’ve been running the pre-release software update for a few days now and I think that describes it aptly. Apple didn’t jettison watchOS as we know it and went back to the drawing board with a completely different idea. Instead, watchOS 10 overhauls built-in apps with a design fit for modern displays and redesigns navigation to include a new widget system.

Designed for the big screens

There’s a lot to like about watchOS 10 for the Apple Watch. Along with the back and forth of which buttons and gestures do what, watchOS is also bouncier and smoother while remaining tastefully understated. There’s just the right amount of playfulness in the subtle way complications momentarily appear when your screen goes from always-on mode to fully active mode. The app grid retains its honeycomb roots, but a fixed width and vertical scrolling bring order to the rebellious chaos that caused many users to prefer the clunky list mode view.

watchOS 10 is also crucial for the introduction of vertical scrolling in the system. This approach matches the software behavior to the hardware movement of the Digital Crown. This is similar to recent versions of watchOS, only this time Apple has combined the sorting organization of horizontal pagination within apps with more information-rich vertical views. The result is full-screen paginated views, often using color to add character and a sense of place.

dealing with mental health

That’s all well and good, but what about the overall utility of watchOS 10? After running watchOS 10 for a few days, I think I’ve settled on my favorite feature. But first, I have to give credit for a feature I already use and hope will be useful: mood and emotion logging. I’ve talked about how the Apple Watch excels at physical health insights on this site, but had no idea when it comes to mental health in 2019:

Two years ago I first wrote about my health and fitness journey with the Apple Watch. The last few years have been eventful (to say the least) so an update is in order. I started 2017 with optimism, faced new challenges in my personal life that turned my world upside down, witnessed the birth of my son and moved to a new house with my family.

My health and fitness journey and experience with running peaked in the spring, then I quit my healthy routines after a difficult summer experience triggered a crippling depression — not the first episode I’ve experienced, but the worst. Much like physical health, mental health has long been difficult for me to deal with for a variety of reasons. […]

Mental health isn’t as easy to monitor as physical health, and neither category has a single suite of best practices that works for everyone. […]

Mental health is just as important as physical health, if not more so. Think of the mind as a muscle, even if the Apple Watch can’t measure its exertion in the same way.

Four years later, there’s an answer on watchOS 10:

Mental health is just as important as physical health, and research shows that thinking about your state of mind can help build emotional awareness and resilience. The Mindfulness app in watchOS 10 allows users to discreetly and conveniently log their current emotions and daily moods. Users can rotate the digital crown to scroll through engaging, multi-dimensional shapes to choose how they’re feeling, what has the greatest impact on them, and to describe how they’re feeling.

In the Health app in iOS 17 and iPadOS 17, users can gain valuable insights into what might be contributing to their state of mind – be it associations or lifestyle factors like sleep or exercise. Additionally, depression and anxiety assessments commonly used in clinics are now easily accessible in the Health app and can help users determine their risk level, connect to resources available in their area, and create a PDF to share with their doctor can share.

Mood and emotion logging has been a great encouragement to me so far. What started out as a Breathe app has now evolved into a more comprehensive app that allows you to log how you’re feeling now and how you’ve been feeling overall in a day. You don’t have to be interested in breathing exercises or thought-provoking images to benefit from the mindfulness app on Apple Watch. I also tried the anxiety and depression test available through the Health app on iPhone and iPad. I take both medications and found that my responses were different than if I hadn’t.

I really love that mental health tools and resources are becoming a part of iOS and watchOS without having to discover and download additional apps. I believe that mood and emotion recording will help me and I am confident that these tools will be of use to anyone who tries them. These updates will help many people.

hot season

Something I suspect people care a lot less about still stands out as it’s something I use every day and watch every hour. It’s not as powerful as mental health, but it’s very important to me. That’s the humidity percentage as a complication of Apple’s Weather app. Seriously. I live on the Gulf Coast where humidity is a better indicator of outdoor comfort than temperature.

It’s always hot in summer and it doesn’t really matter how hot it is. Humidity, on the other hand, is an important indicator of how comfortable or uncomfortable it will be to go outside: I like 90 degrees and 55 percent humidity better than 80 degrees and 85 percent humidity. Humidity has been a data point in Apple Weather for a while, but watchOS 10 is the first release to include a watch face complication for it. Thinking about it as we review things I’ve written over the last decade, here’s from 2018:

Humidity data is included with Carrot Weather ($4.99 + $3.99/year subscription). This might be overkill for my use – just to show the humidity data in the infograph – but I like it. It’s often very humid where I live and 80°C can feel very different depending on how humid it is outside.

Apple’s calendar and weather apps could provide data for these complications, but it’s early days for the Apple Watch Series 4 and Infograph corner complications. I’m glad there are other apps that fill the gaps.

The omission of humidity is actually a bit stranger. Apple presents this data in the iPhone Weather app but not in the Apple Watch Weather app; The only way to check without a third-party app is to use Siri. Air quality and UV index are new in watchOS 5 and present quite a complication, but where I live neither are important variables.

One, two, three, four, five years later… I would say watchOS 10 is indeed a milestone update for the Apple Watch.

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