The best part of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference is getting a sneak peek into all the new features Apple’s got planned for its product lineup. In the case of the Apple Watch, today’s keynote gave us a look at all the updates coming later this spring — and maybe a few hints at what Apple’s got in mind for the forthcoming Series 7.
Some things we knew were coming, while others were a legitimate surprise, but here’s a rundown of everything you need to know about watchOS 8.
It Ain’t WWDC Without More Watch Faces!
No, we didn’t get third-party watch faces this year. (C’mon now, you didn’t really think that was going to happen, did you?) That said, Apple did introduce a cool new watch face of its own
This year, we’re getting Portrait photo watch faces. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Basically, you can make your watch face a super fancy version of the faces of your loved ones. This is the sole new watch face, which is a bit surprising since we generally see two or three.
Deeper Integration With Apple Services
Say what you want about Apple’s walled garden, but the fact remains that it does make for a seamless ecosystem of gadgets and services. Last year we got Fitness+, the first Apple service to showcase the Apple Watch, so it’s no surprise to see some updates here. Fitness+ is introducing a new set of workouts with popular instructor Janette Jenkins, who teaches strength and HIIT. This is the second new instructor added since launch. Also coming to Fitness+ are Artist Spotlights — or playlists based on a particular musician via Apple Music. (This is very similar to what’s offered on other services like Peloton.)
The Photos app is also being redesigned to include memory highlights, featured photos, and favourites. There’s also a new mosaic layout, and it’ll be easier to share photos and messages from the worst. Specifically, you can now scribble directly onto the watch so you can edit your texts more easily. Texts are also getting an update: You can now send reaction gifs. Also mentioned was support for multiple timers. Lastly, the Apple Watch will work more seamlessly with HomeKit so you can view who’s at your house from the wrist.
Better Sleep-Tracking, More Workouts, and Mindfulness
When Apple finally brought native sleep-tracking to watchOS 7 last year, we were underwhelmed but confident Apple would improve on it in the future. Well, this is the future. In watchOS 8, you’ll now be able to track your respiratory rate, or how many breaths you take per minute. You’ll also be notified if a meaningful trend in your respiratory rate is detected.
Each iteration of watchOS also brings some improvements to the Health app and workout types. Last year we saw a new Dance workout. This year, Apple’s adding tai chi and a new Pilates workout type, which should make your results more accurate.
Another major health update is a new Mindfulness app that gives you insights in how to be more reflective during the day.
Health App’s New Features
Apple’s adding three new features to the Health app. The first is walking steadiness. iPhones already record mobility data, but now you’ll get to see whether you’re at risk of falling. It’ll also give recommendations for movement exercises to increase your strength and balance.
Another feature Apple is expanding on is lab results. You can already look at your lab results — if you enable that in your Health app — but now you can view those results over time as well as get extra context. For example, you’ll be able to see if your LDL (the “bad” kind of blood pressure metric) is within an acceptable range. In that vein, Apple is now monitoring something it calls Trends. This is something similar to what you already get in the Fitness app, but less workout-focused.
Apple is also building a way for you to share your recorded health data directly with your physicians. You can also set up sharing relationships with family members — specifically elderly relatives or children — so you can get notified on changes in their health.
So there you have it. There weren’t a whole lot of watchOS 8 rumours coming into WWDC, but Apple still delivered some solid updates that have got us hyped for the Series 7 in spring. Don’t worry though, you don’t need to get a Series 7 to get a lot of these features.
We have no idea if watchOS 8 will work with the Series 3, though. Like Bernie Sanders, I am once again asking you to not buy a new Series 3, even if you happen to spot a deal on it ahead of the Series 7’s launch this spring.