Apple introduces WatchOS 8 for the Apple Watch has been announced during the keynote presentation at WWDC 2021, Apple’s annual developer conference. What’s new in WatchOS 8? Apple sped through the new features during the keynote, so here’s what it has shown us so far, but more could be revealed about the new software between now and release later this year.
“Apple Watch is the most loved watch in the world, keeping users healthy, active, and connected,” said Kevin Lynch, Apple’s vice president of Technology.
“With watchOS 8, we’re bringing more convenient access to places users to live, work, and visit with significant updates to Home and Wallet, expanding support for both physical and mental well-being, and enabling richer personal connections with the new Portraits face and updates to Messages.”
Health and fitness
First up is the Breathe app. Apple says its mindfulness app has grown in popularity recently, which is no real surprise given the year we’ve all had, and for WatchOS 8 it has been enhanced with new animation to help you center and breathe more calmly. Reflect is a new feature, with a soothing animation to help you focus on the things you enjoy and destress. In Sleep tracking, WatchOS 8 now tracks respiratory rate to look for any trend change and identify potential problems. Data is shown in the Health app.
In WatchOS 8’s Workouts app, you’ll find a new Tai Chi workout mode has been added in, along with a new pilates workout too. In the Fitness+ app, there are seven new high-intensity workout plans from fitness trainer Jeanette Jenkins. There is also a new Artist Spotlight series in Fitness+ with motivational musical playlists from some big names including Lady Gaga.
Portraits and photos
Outside of fitness and health, WatchOS 8 has a new Portraits watch face. Using Portrait shots taken with your iPhone, the watch face adds further depth to the shots so they look great on the Apple Watch’s screen, and you can further customize the look by choosing the look and where to place the time. Twist the Digital Crown and you can even zoom in and out of the photo.
The Photos app on your Watch has been redesigned with access to Memory Highlights and Featured Photos. Photos can be selected, scrolled through on the screen, and shared directly through a new, easy-to-use Message system. Text in messages can be edited or dictated, plus GIFs can be added to your Messages on the Watch too. Text can be added to messages using the scribble, keyboard, and dictation feature all at the same time, to really help speed the process up.
Other new features
What else? Expect to see a new contacts app, a redesign of the music app, the chance to set multiple timers at one time, weather alerts, and an enhancement to the Noise app that measures audio volume exposure for headphones in real time. The new Focus feature introduced with iOS 15, where you can choose different settings to tailor notifications, will also be added to the Apple Watch. Another iOS 15 feature coming to the watch is the updated Wallet with storage for your home key, car key, and photographic identification.
The Always-on screen, which is available on the Apple Watch Series 5 and Series 6, will work with additional apps and show details from the stopwatch, alarm, and Apple Maps, plus developers will be able to add support for their own apps too. Working with Apple’s Home app, WatchOS 8 will let you carry out features like unlocking doors or viewing doorbell cameras on the Apple Watch and view the current status of connected hardware.
Additional watchOS 8 Updates
- Multiple timers come to Apple Watch and can be given a specific label using Siri (such as “Laundry Timer” or “Cooking Timer”).
- In watchOS 8, more Apple Watch apps support the Always-On display, including Maps, Mindfulness, Now Playing, Phone, Podcasts, Stopwatch, Timers, Voice Memos, and others. watchOS 8 is also making it easier for developers to keep their apps timely and relevant with a new Always-On API for third-party apps.
- To support Apple Watch users with upper-body limb differences, AssistiveTouch enables one-arm usage of Apple Watch by sensing simple hand gestures to interact without touching the display. Using the built-in motion sensors, users can answer incoming calls, control an onscreen motion pointer, and surface an action menu that can access Notification Centre, Control Centre, and more.
- A new Find Items app on Apple Watch helps users locate tagged items using the Find My network, and a new Find Devices app helps users locate lost Apple devices that are signed in with the same Apple ID.
- The redesigned Music app enables users to share songs, albums, and playlists through Messages and Mail, and enjoy music and radio all in one place.
- The Weather app now supports Severe Weather notifications, displaying government alerts about certain severe weather events. The app also delivers Next Hour precipitation alerts and offers updated complications.
- Family Setup introduces the ability to add transit cards from Hong Kong, Japan, and select China mainland and US cities, and Calendar and Mail now include the option to add a Google account.
- Apple Fitness+, the first fitness service created entirely around Apple Watch, expands its offering in watchOS 8 with Picture in Picture support and new filtering options, and users can stop and resume an in-progress workout on any device. Later this month, Fitness+ introduces a new series of workouts featuring Jeanette Jenkins, one of the most sought-after fitness experts, and a new Artist Spotlight Series with workouts featuring entire playlists from Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, and Alicia Keys.
When will it arrive?
When will you get WatchOS 8? Apple will release the developer beta previews today, and a public beta version for everyone else to download will arrive in July. The final release will arrive during the fall, but the exact date won’t be known until much closer to the time. It will be compatible with the Apple Watch Series 3, Series 4, Series 5, Series 6, and the Apple Watch SE.