watchOS 11 brings a raft of new apps and features to the Apple Watch

At WWDC 2024 on June 10, Apple unveiled watchOS 11, the next operating system update for Apple Watch. The software brings new apps, new features, new face customization options, an upgraded Smart Stack, and extensive changes to the Apple Watch’s health and fitness functions. Here’s a taste of the new features coming to your Apple Watch later this year:

New watch faces

We’ll start with something that comes up nearly every year: new watch faces.

Or perhaps we should say upgraded rather than new faces because this is a change to the existing Photos face. The way this will change in watchOS 11 is that you’ll be able to create custom faces more easily, thanks to assistance from the OS. The Watch will analyze thousands of your photos to make a recommendation of those that will work well as a face (based on composition, facial expression, and other factors) and then help you to crop and zoom to get the best positioning within the frame.

You’ll get a range of personalization options beyond this, including font, layout, clock size, and more, and there’s also a Dynamic mode that will push a different photo each time you raise your wrist.



The Apple Watch’s main functions revolve around health and fitness, and it was no surprise that Apple focuses heavily on these areas in watchOS 11.

On the fitness side, there’s a new metric called Training Load, designed to help users understand the strain that exercise places on the body and the way workouts are impacting their body. Workouts will be given an effort rating on a scale of 1 to 10, based on age, height, weight, heart rate, GPS data, and the workout type, but users can further modify this to account for factors such as stress. Then longer-term data can be used to analyze whether strain on the body “is ramping up, staying the same, or easing off so they can adjust their training for the best results.”

watchOS 11 also brings the ability to pause Activity rings when you need a rest day or suffer an injury but don’t want to break a streak. (That’s a feature that’s been needed as long as Apple Watch has been a thing.) You can pause rings for as long as you want—a day, a week, even a month or more.


Those rings will also be more customizable than in the past. You can choose to modify the ring targets depending on the day of the week, so that calorie targets are lower on Sundays, for example, if that’s when you like to rest up. That’s another feature that’s been needed for a long time; it was always peculiar and inflexible for the Apple Watch to insist that your fitness patterns should be the same throughout the week.

Another regular feature of watchOS updates is the addition of new workout types, and watchOS 11 is no exception. In this case the key factor is improvements in GPS positioning, which means more workout types can track distance and provide GPS map data, including Soccer, American Football, Lacrosse, Cross Country Skiing, Golf, Outdoor Rowing, and more. The Custom Workouts feature can now also be used for pool swims.


There’s a new app for the Apple Watch, indeed a completely new app on any of Apple’s platforms, called Vitals. This brings together useful health-related metrics (including the new Training Load information discussed above) and makes them easy to browse in a single place.

You can monitor your heart rate, for instance, and view how the current measurement compares to what’s typical for you. Outliers are flagged, in case they are worth checking with a medical professional, and the app explains what has changed from the norm and offers possible causes of this.

Higher temperatures, for example, “could be due to many factors including illness or alcohol consumption.” Specifically, Apple says a notification can be triggered if two or more metrics are out of their typical range.


Pregnancy support

Continuing the health and fitness focus, watchOS 11 (along with iOS 18 and iPadOS 18) is designed to support pregnant people “to reflect changes in their physical and mental health during this important time.” You’ll need to log the pregnancy in the Health app, and then the Apple Watch’s Cycle Tracking app will track gestational age, allow you to log symptoms, and prompt you to adjust the threshold for your high heart rate notification and similar features. Fall detection can adjust its sensitivity to account for the typically greater unsteadiness of pregnant people, while the Health app can be set to prompt the user to review their mental health on a regular basis.


Here’s another new app, but in this case it’s only new to Apple Watch. The Translate app uses machine learning to help you navigate conversations in other languages. (A total of 20 are supported.) This also provides Romanized pronunciation guides for languages using different alphabets.


Smart Stack

Apple says the Smart Stack feature has become more capable. It can now feature Live Activities, enabling you to follow sports events or the progress of your Uber driver. The feature can use information about your routine, as well as the time and location, to suggest appropriate widgets–such as a weather-alert widget when bad weather is on the way. And there are new widgets based on Shazam, Photos, Distance, and more.

The Smart Stack can also suggest a relevant Translate widget when you travel to a different country and includes access to the Check In feature, which also comes to Apple Watch for the first time.

Check In

Speaking of which… this useful personal-safety feature, previously available on iPhone as of the launch of iOS 17 last year, enables you to easily let friends and family know that you’ve reached your destination. And it now comes to the Apple Watch.

It’s been integrated into the Workout app, which sounds perfect for those embarking on late-night runs, as well as Messages (as on the iPhone).


What about Apple Intelligence?

The Apple Watch’s new Translate app and the Photos watch face customization algorithm each rely on machine learning, but it was notable at WWDC that the Apple Watch is getting far less access to Apple’s new AI developments, at least in this first wave. The Apple Intelligence features are coming to the iPhone, the iPad, and the Mac… but the Apple Watch wasn’t mentioned.

It’s likely that watchOS will become part of Apple Intelligence at some point, but not yet. With one minor exception: Apple says “Summarised notifications, powered by Apple Intelligence, will be forwarded from iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max to Apple Watch.”


watchOS 11 is available for the Apple Watch Series 6 and later.

  • Apple Watch Series 6
  • Apple Watch Series 7
  • Apple Watch Series 8
  • Apple Watch SE (2nd gen)
  • Apple Watch Ultra
  • Apple Watch Series 9
  • Apple Watch Ultra 2

That’s a big jump; watchOS 9 and 10 were both Series 4 and later, so both models have been removed from support. And in fact the 1st-gen Apple Watch SE has been dropped as well, even though it came out at the same time as the Series 6.

watchOS 11 is available as a developer beta right away and a public beta will become available in July. The final version of watchOS 11 will roll out to the public in the fall.

Source : Macworld