At WWDC 2022, Apple finally revealed watchOS 9, the latest update to the software that powers the might Apple Watch, easily the best smartwatch around.
Apple gave us details for pretty much all major updates to its operating systems, including iOS 16 and macOS Ventura. We also got a look at the M2-powered MacBook Air, a nice addition to Apple's MacBook lineup.
While we didn't get a look at Apple's forthcoming AR/VR headset and realityOS, everything else at WWDC was interesting and showcased how deeply Apple is thinking about technological developments.
But, for us at least, one of the most interesting developments was a look at watchOS 9, which promises several major updates to the OS, and what it means for the rumoured Google Pixel Watch.
A high quality update
Apple's watchOS 9 (opens in new tab) is an attempt to stay ahead of Samsung, Google, Fitbit, and other smartwatch makers by introducing features that make the device even more essential to everyday life – an important thing for something that lives on wrists. There's loads of new features delivered in the OS, but three are arguably most key.
Perhaps the most noticeable change is the addition of several watch faces (Lunar, Playtime, Metropolitan, and Astronomy), as well as new complications and background colour editing. These look genuinely impressive and market leading.
Other additions include expanded workout updates, more detailed sleep tracking, medication tracking, and some general UI improvements. One of the most impressive of these is watchOS 9's new banner notifications, as well as the ability to pin active apps to the top of watch faces.
In terms of fitness, watchOS 9 delivers three new running form metrics that help you track the efficiency of your running, while there's a multi-sport mode that is aimed at triathlons training. Apple Fitness+ workouts can also now display in watchOS 9 on-screen tips and guidance while cycling, rowing and undertaking HIIT and treadmill workouts.
In terms of sleep, the Sleep app in watchOS 9 now lets you (if you wish) to share your sleep metrics with sleep scientists, while in terms of hearth health, the software update also delivers the new Afib History feature, which draws in metrics from exercise, sleep, weight and heart health to see how it affects atrial fibrillation.
There's also six new QWERTY keyboard languages incoming, including Japanese, French, German, Italian, Portuguese (Brazil), and Spanish (Mexico, Spain, Latin America).
Basically, watchOS 9 is a major smartwatch update and Google Pixel Watch and its OS needs to be ready.
While we haven't yet seen the Apple Watch Series 8 – which is likely coming in September or October – but the groundwork has been laid for a successful update.
Take notice, Google
Google has been developing Wear OS for years at this point but the Pixel Watch would represent the first time the company has itself made a smartwatch.
Like Pixel smartphones, Google would likely use the Pixel Watch to set a benchmark for what it expects from third-party manufacturers, such as Samsung.
Google pre-announced the device at I/O, offering some teasing looks (opens in new tab) at the circular smartwatch without revealing too much. It's certainly a handsome device, especially for anyone who doesn't like the squared-off Apple Watch.
But the central issue, as with most Wear OS devices, is the software and Google needs to take a long, hard look at what makes watchOS such a great platform. Offering a decent app store, slick UI and UX, and an attractive physical design is essential for the Pixel Watch to succeed.
We'll have to wait a few months before we get to hold the Pixel Watch in our hands, but we hope Google was watching WWDC and looking for ideas.
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