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I’ve never been more excited to wear an Apple Watch

Multiple Apple Watches running watchOS 11.
Apple

It’s no secret that the Apple Watch is a fantastic wearable. If you own an iPhone and want a smartwatch, it’s often hard to find a reason not to buy one. From the excellent hardware to the great fitness tracking and slick software, there’s just so much to like. It’s why I’ve worn an Apple Watch for the last few years.

Apple recently announced watchOS 11 as the next big software update for the Apple Watch, and heading into Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2024, we weren’t expecting all that much from it. However, what we got is — in my opinion — one of the most exciting watchOS updates in a while. As a longtime Apple Watch wearer, I’ve never been more excited to have one on my wrist.

Fixing one of my biggest Apple Watch issues

Post-walk fitness data on the Apple Watch Series 9.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

We’ll start with the biggest changes in watchOS 11 — and the things I’m personally the most excited about: Apple’s new health features. There are a lot of different health/activity updates in watchOS 11, but there are four specific ones I can’t wait to get my hands on.

First, activity rings now feel like they were designed for humans rather than exercising robots. WatchOS 11 now allows you to pause your Move, Exercise, and Stand rings whenever you want. Are you feeling under the weather? On an overnight flight to Paris? Dealing with an injury? Whatever the reason is, Apple makes it easy to pause your rings for a day, a week, or however long you want.

Pausing your activity in watchOS 11.
You can pause your activity in watchOS 11. Apple

The other part of this is that your activity rings are much more customizable than ever. Now, watchOS 11 allows you to set ring goals for specific days of the week. For example, you may want to burn 800 calories Monday through Wednesday, 500 calories on Thursday, 800 on Friday, and 600 on Saturday and Sunday. Whatever specific goals you want to hit, you can give each day its own.

Customized activity ring goals in watchOS 11.
Per-day activity goals in watchOS 11 Apple

This is all fantastic. One of my biggest gripes with the Apple Watch has been how rigid its activity tracking is. The ring system is simple and easy to understand, but it not accounting for life’s unexpected moments has always been its Achilles’ heel. I want to close my rings as often as I can, but I’m not going to go for a run or hit the gym if I’m fighting a cold or spending all day on a plane.

With watchOS 11, that’s no longer going to be an issue. If something happens and you can’t close your rings, just pause them for however long you need to and go on with your day. And, no, pausing your rings won’t cause you to lose progress toward any streaks or awards. These two small changes have singlehandedly fixed one of my main annoyances with the Apple Watch, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

More robust health insights

Screenshots from the Apple Vitals app on the Apple Watch.
Apple’s new Vitals app Apple

Along with making your activity goals more attainable, watchOS 11 also adds some really valuable health insights to the Apple Watch. One way it does this is through the new Vitals app. When you wear your Apple Watch to bed, it tracks your heart rate, respiratory rate, blood oxygen, wrist temperature, and sleep duration. Vitals takes all of this existing data and presents it in a clear, easy-to-understand way so you can get a quick snapshot of some of your body’s most important vitals (pun intended).

Furthermore, the Vitals app will let you know if your health data is in line with your body’s normal levels or if something might be wrong. If two or more vitals are out of their normal range, you’ll get an alert so you can see what may be going on. These alerts will also be accompanied by context to help explain what could be causing your body to be out of whack — such as any medications you’ve taken, if you’ve had any alcohol, etc.

watchOS 11 Vitals app on Apple Watch
Training Load on the Apple Watch Apple

The other thing I’m really looking forward to is the new Training Load feature. Part of the existing Fitness app on the Apple Watch, Training Load lets you see how hard you’re been working out. The white line shows your workout intensity over the last month, while the colored line shows your workout intensity for the past week. This lets you see if you’re staying in line with your exercise routine, if you’re pushing yourself more than usual, or if you’re slacking off. Similarly, you now record an Effort rating at the end of each workout (on a scale from 1 to 10) to indicate how hard you pushed yourself, and that’s used to help build your Training Load.

Is this a lot of extra health data? Yes. Will some people find it unhelpful or a bit overwhelming? Potentially. Personally, I’m over the moon that Apple added all of these tools.

Sleep tracking on the Apple Watch is fine, but it doesn’t do anything interesting with its health data. Activity rings are great for their simplicity, but they aren’t helpful for seeing deeper insights into your activity. Vitals and Training Load change both of those things.

The Apple Watch has always been excellent for casual activity tracking, but it leaves a lot to be desired for anything beyond that. Thanks to these new features, it’ll now provide health data I’d expect to get from an Oura Ring or a Whoop. As someone who really likes the data I get from those other wearables, the Apple Watch feels like it’s turning into a robust health-tracking machine rather than a simple activity tracker. Count. Me. In.

The Apple Watch feels exciting again

New widgets in watchOS 11.
Apple

While the health/activity changes have me most excited, a couple of other updates have also caught my eye. After adding widgets last year with watchOS 10, they’re picking up some cool new tricks in watchOS 11. Widgets can now automatically appear when your Apple Watch thinks you’ll find them helpful — such as showing a rain widget if it’s going to start raining soon or an Uber widget if your ride is arriving. If your Apple Watch detects that a song is playing, it can even show a Shazam widget so you can quickly identify the song. It sounds a lot like the AI smarts Nothing teased for the Nothing Phone 3, except you don’t have to wait until 2025 and buy a new phone to use them.

Widgets are also interactive in watchOS 11. You can tap a Home app widget to control smart home devices without opening the app, select a specific exercise with a new Workout widget, and more.

Double Tap is also getting some much-needed love. Now, you can tap your fingers to scroll through any app. Apple is also launching a new Double Tap API so third-party apps can do all sorts of new cool things with it. There’s also the Translate app for the Apple Watch, which brings language translation right to your wrist. It’s all very cool stuff that I can’t wait to get my hands on.

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 laying on the ground, showing the Modular Ultra watch face.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

I could keep rattling off other new features in watchOS 11, but the underlying theme here is that I’m genuinely excited about what’s on the horizon. I’m excited to have my activity goals be more sustainable. I’m excited to have deeper insights into my workout routines and overall health. I’m excited for my widgets to be smarter than ever. I’m excited to use Double Tap more.

I don’t dislike wearing my Apple Watch, but sometimes, it does feel like I’m coasting along with it and wearing it just for the sake of wearing it. The new features coming in watchOS 11 sound like meaningful additions that will actually make me want to engage with it more. They sound like things that will make me excited to strap on my Apple Watch each morning rather than doing it out of routine. It’s not easy to stir up that level of excitement, but Apple did it, and I’m thrilled about it.

Joe Maring
Joe Maring is the Section Editor for Digital Trends' Mobile team, leading the site's coverage for all things smartphones…
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