Let it be said, Apple will never forget to remind you its Apple Watch is the best selling smartwatch out there. This year’s WWDC is no exception. At today’s keynote, Apple’s Kevin Lynch took the stage to reveal all the updates we can expect to see in watchOS 6, and therefore, the Apple Watch Series 5 later this fall.
Apple's World Wide Developers Conference has kicked off for another year! We're suckers for 3am punishment, so we'll be bringing you everything that was announced live as it happens.
Some more watch faces! And a Pride band!
Apple Watch still doesn’t have as many watch faces as its Android-friendly competitors. That said, the company did introduce a number of new watch faces this year. There’s a super minimalistic gradient face, a numerals face that’ll display the hour in different languages, a modern digital face, a “California style” face, and a nifty little solar face that lets you “visualise the sun’s path around the dial.”
Like the Infograph watch face introduced last year, you can also customise and add complications to a couple of the faces. You can also get something Apple’s Kevin Lynch described onstage as “taptic chimes.” Basically, if you’ve got your volume on, you can hear a little chime at the top of the hour. In the demo, Lynch’s watch ‘chimed’ to the sound of birds chirping. Cool, I guess?
Oh, and because it’s June and there’s also a Pride watch face, Apple also introduced a rainbow Pride band. Corporate, but sure.
The App Store is coming to your wrist
You’ve been able to download apps directly onto your wrist via wearOS and Tizen (Samsung’s proprietary system) for ages now. Apple’s a little late to the game, but it’s finally adding the App Store to the watch so you don’t have to manage your apps via your iPhone. Instead, you can purchase and install apps from the watch itself.
Onstage, Lynch said you can search the entire App Store from the watch itself—either by dictation, asking Siri, or typing it out yourself on a mini keyboard.
Another important distinction: Developers will now be able to develop watch-only apps. Previously, Apple Watch apps were dependent on a “main” iPhone version. Not anymore.
Lynch also demonstrated some examples of what watch-specific apps might look like. The watch’s Audiobook app will let you browse chapters, while the Calculator app will let you figure out tips and how to split the bill. You’ll also be able to directly record voice memos on the watch, though whether that news deserved one lady in the audience screaming her head off remains to be seen.
Apple revamps Health app, adds noise and period tracking
While Apple’s been pushing into health for the past few years, this year it really wants you to know it cares about your bodily well-being.
First off, Apple introduced a brand new design for the Health app’s homepage. Currently, the home page is a mish-mash of colourful blocks that display your stats. It’s not that it’s hard to understand, it’s just doesn’t present your data in an easily contextualized way. The new redesign will let you track nine key metrics and does a great deal more to let you monitor your trends. For instance, you can see how you’ve been doing over the past 90 days versus the past 365. If you’ve been crushing it, then great. If you’ve fallen off the horse, the Health app will give you some gentle coaching to get you back on track. Another part of the redesign is the ability to track your favourites, view automatically generated highlights, and directly see the metrics you care about most.
One of the more interesting reveals is there’ll be a new Noise app and complication for monitoring your hearing health. Using the microphone on your watch, you can find out if you’re in an area that’s detrimental to your hearing, like a construction site or loud concert. Notably, Apple said the Noise app was “designed with privacy in mind.” That means while it periodically samples audio, it will reportedly not record or save any audio data.
Another tidbit: Apple’s also adding more comprehensive menstrual tracking. The Health app currently lets you log basal body temperature, cervical mucus quality, period, ovulation test results, sexy times, and spotting. However, it’s a fairly straightforward, overly simplistic interface. For example, you can’t log moods with the app, and the Health app often directs you to more feature-rich, third-party options.
Not anymore. Like Fitbit, and more recently Garmin, you’ll now be able to view your menstrual data straight from the watch thanks to a new Cycles app. You’ll be able to log symptoms and get notified when your period is about to begin. You can also opt-in to notifications of when your fertile window is approaching. One nice aspect is that the Cycles app won’t be limited to watch owners—it’ll also be available in the iPhone Health app as well.
That’s a lot of sensitive data that Apple’s gathering. To address that, Apple said onstage that all that information will be encrypted and available to users only.
All-in-all, the updates were partly incremental, somewhat overdue, but also intriguing. Hearing health isn’t something we’ve really seen on smartwatches yet, and expanding into women’s health is always a welcome addition. And while other smartwatch platforms have had independent app stores for ages, it’s good to see it’ll finally be supported on watchOS too.