Apple watchOS 5: what we want to see

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We’ve had a few months to get to grips with watchOS 4 and now we’re hungry for more. Good as Apple’s latest smartwatch operating system is there’s still plenty of room for improvement, so we’ve listed what we want to see below.

In case you’re wondering when you’ll get watchOS 5 you’ll also find information on the release date below, and while there’s not much in the way of news or rumors yet we’ll add in everything we know, as and when we hear it.

So settle in and read on for everything we know so far about the Apple Watch's next big software upgrade.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The next version of Apple's smartwatch operating system
  • When is it out? Probably announced in June, released September 2018
  • What will it cost? It will be a free update

Apple watchOS 5 release date

Based on past form, watchOS 5 will almost certainly be announced at WWDC 2018, which is now set for June 4 until June 8 this year.

Then, following beta tests, it should arrive in finished form on all compatible watches later in the year, probably in September. That's around the same time rumors point the Apple Watch 4 launching too.

Apple watchOS 5 news and rumors

So far not much of anything is known about watchOS 5, but we've heard a couple of rumors worth noting. 

First off, Spotify is reportedly set to launch alongside the watchOS 5. It's all thanks to Apple's rumored StreamKit framework.

If it comes to fruition in the Apple Watch 3, it would not just give Apple Watch users another native music streaming application, but it might very well be the first app to enable streaming without the need to carry your iPhone around. 

That'll be a major change for the Apple Watch, which you can learn more about in our explainer piece here.

Another rumor has suggested the next Apple Watch will get Face ID unlock technology, which we saw debut on the iPhone X

That will need specific hardware to be able to do use your face to unlock your watch - so you won't be able to do this on your existing Apple Watch - but we may see new Face ID based upgrades in the software for watchOS 5.

What we want to see

We might not know much about watchOS 5 yet, but we know what we want from it. The following things top our list:

1. Third-party watch faces

Apple watchOS 4 has some good watch faces, but it needs far more.

Apple watchOS 4 has some good watch faces, but it needs far more.

There are plenty of different ways to customize the hardware of an Apple Watch, but the software is – unsurprisingly coming from Apple – very locked down.

That extends to the watch faces, which are limited to a handful of official ones. Sure, there’s no end of complications you can add to them, but we’d love to see Apple open its watches up to third-party faces with watchOS 5, so that users will quickly have hundreds or thousands to choose from.

2. Improved on-watch settings

The Apple Watch 3 LTE should be a truly phone-free smartwatch, but even that model requires you to head to the Apple Watch app on your iPhone to change many of the settings.

It’s clunky, so we’d like to see everything become controllable and customizable directly from the Apple Watch itself as part of the next major software update.

3. Always-on face

The least we expect from a watch is to always be able to see the time.

The least we expect from a watch is to always be able to see the time.

An always-on watch face is sure to drain the battery more quickly than one that requires a gesture or a press to wake up, but we’d still like it as an option in watchOS 5.

It doesn’t have to be fully lit up either – Apple could always take inspiration from Android Wear or always-on phone screens and have a partially lit, static always-on display that simply shows the time.

Done that way the hit on the battery might not be too extreme, and the Apple Watch 3 with its fairly lengthy life could probably survive a day of display.

4. Software optimizations

Apps will often open slowly on the Apple Watch, treating you to a spinning icon before they load. This is true even on the Apple Watch 3 and is something we want to see an end of.

Much of the issue will probably be hardware related, but further software optimizations as part of watchOS 5 could make a difference too.

5. Slicker Siri

Siri is in some ways more useful on the Apple Watch than the iPhone, given that other interactions are more limited, but there’s also a lot of room for improvement.

For one thing, apps don’t always launch when asked to and Siri doesn’t always accurately hear what we’re saying. Both of these things really need to be worked on for watchOS 5 so that Siri becomes a reliable way of interacting with your watch.

6. Customizable Control Center

Control Center on the Apple Watch could learn from its iOS counterpart.

Control Center on the Apple Watch could learn from its iOS counterpart.

iOS now gives you some amount of say in what appears in Control Center, but watchOS still doesn’t. For watchOS 5 we’d like the ability to add and remove shortcuts and toggles, as well as being able to re-order them, so there’s never more swiping and tapping than absolutely necessary.

7. More and better apps

Apple watchOS has a fair few apps at this point, but it still lags way behind iOS, and many of the apps are very limited or just a bit gimmicky.

There are certainly some very useful ones, but if you’re anything like us you’re probably only regularly using a handful.

Of course, making truly good apps for a screen this size is sure to be a challenge, but if the Apple Watch ever hopes to become more than just a luxury then good apps is one of the main things it needs.

This isn’t something that specifically requires watchOS 5, but if Apple can work with key developers to have new and improved apps ready for the next big software update then that could give it something to shout about.

8. Android support

This is at once the least likely of our wishes and the one we want most. Making watchOS play nice with Android phones would make the Apple Watch a viable choice for millions more people.

Not only that, it would give existing owners and anyone considering a purchase the peace of mind that their expensive watch will be usable no matter what phone they end up with in the future.

This probably won’t happen, but you never know. Apple understandably will be wanting to keep people within iOS, but if it wants to increase its already sizeable share of the smartwatch market then Android compatibility could be a risk that’s worth taking.