Why Did Apple Change the watchOS 10 Interface?

Originally published at: https://tidbits.com/2023/12/15/why-did-apple-change-the-watchos-10-interface/

Some users love the user interface changes in watchOS 10. Others do not. What changed, and how does Apple decide to update a perfectly good user interface, anyway? Former Apple engineer David Shayer explains what Apple changed and likely why, before sharing how Apple approaches major interface changes.

Such a great article. Thanks.

List view hasn’t changed.

One small change: list view used to remember where you were in the list between uses. Now it always dumps you to the (alphabetic) top of the list.

I miss the old behavior, because I frequently used the app launcher only to launch a few apps, and - of course - those apps tend to be at the end of the alphabet.

The new grid view, though, is a huge improvement, and I’ve simply decided to use that and drag my important apps to the top of the grid.


I’m glad you mentioned that because I’ve been perturbed by it always being at the top but didn’t remember that it retained its position in the past. Retaining the position is helpful since I don’t use 1Password or Activity as standalone apps much. :-)

I also found the change annoying, since the app I usually want is Overcast. I don’t find it annoying enough to switch to grid view, though, since I’ve never liked that.

The only app I ever manually launch regularly is Workout, which is at the very bottom!

But fortunately I was able to add a workout complication and moved a rarely used complication to the Smart Stack, so all is well.

For me, it’s Intervals Pro and Strava. But after editing David’s article, I’ve managed to retrain myself to double-press for the App Switcher, since those two apps are always fairly high in the stack.

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I think that David has revised the article. The sentence now reads:

"List view hasn’t changed much, though it now always defaults to the top of the list rather than remembering your position. "

I look forward to Apple providing an update that allows one to switch to the former default, as they did with changing watch faces.

In the meantime, I use a workaround. I make Shortcuts one of the apps in the multifunction widget, which is pinned to the top of the Smart Stack. I then have a shortcut for each app I commonly want to open It contains only an Open App action. Unfortunately, the app needs to have an IOS version for this to work. When you tap the Shortcut icon in the widget, the first 3 Shortcuts display with a button at the bottom to display the rest of the list, so manually ordering the list allows quick access to the 3 most favorite apps and slightly delayed access to the rest.

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Or you can arrange your favourite apps to be at the top of the apps grid view, and launch them them after one click on the crown wheel. You can have 17 apps visible in grid view without scrolling….better than old list view that only had 10 and required scrolling for more than top few.


Exactly what I have done. And you can do this on the Watch app on the phone rather than try to do so on the watch’s small display.

I am one of those that has welcomed the new watchOS way of doing things. There is only one thing that I have trouble with and that is the start and stop of audio. The new interface is close to the bottom and requires that you do not touch the outer rim. You have to have your finger descend tip first. I have never used my little finger before to select things on the watch, but I now find that using it I have fewer misses.

I have a Apple Watch Series 4, 40 mm. I wonder if users of bigger watches have less problems with this? :thinking:

I’m one of the ones who vociferously complained about losing the quick swipe of watch faces, so I’m very glad to see the new option to re-enable it. However, watchOS 10 still has to refresh the face display once you swipe to it, whereas previous versions had the current screen elements already updated when the face displayed.
Any idea why this is? It makes face swapping still seem markedly slower than before.

Hmmm Hold the crown and say "Open/Launch . seems simple enough.

I’m sitting here with my Watch SE recently updated to 10.2. I push the Digital Crown, and it brings up the list of apps with my most-recently used app (Settings) showing. I’ve repeated this several times. Now I use the Messages app. Go back to my watch face. Push the Crown, there’s Messages. What am I doing right?

How do you re-enable it?

On the Watch (not your iPhone), go to the Settings app and then the Clock app. It should be the first item.

On my Watch 8, the delay is a fraction of a second. I see the hands rapidly move into position rather than just being there. My model is that when a watch face is hidden, it’s stored as ready to edit. When you select it, it pops into active mode, jumping to the current time and activating any complications.

The delay may be longer on an older watch.

Yeah, the delay in absolute seconds is small, but it seems longer. And I have the 9, so it’s not being slowed by age.

Also, if I’m wanting to swipe 2 or 3 faces from the current one, I feel like I need to pause after each one to let the display update. But maybe not.

Are you double-clicking the crown? That’s what has replaced what used to be the dock (single press of the side button), though it’s really more like the multitask screen on the iPhone, since you can swipe the cards that represent the apps to force close them.

Single click of the crown while you are on the watch face brings up the app launcher - either grid view or list view. Single click of the crown while you are in an app brings you back to the watch face. This hasn’t changed at all with watchOS 10.

Good article. I only take issue with one thing:

To get into the App Switcher (previously called the Dock)

They aren’t the same thing, so no it wasn’t. The Dock is gone. I still don’t understand why this got the axe. I’ve gotten used to the new way, but the Dock was somewhat unceremoniously killed off-screen, as it were.

Yeah, I get it. I added that in editing, and I’ll recast slightly to “which replaces the Dock.”