Apple has officially released watchOS 8.1, which marks its first major update to the watchOS 8 operating system. watchOS 8 can be installed on the Apple Watch Series 3, Series 4, Series 5, and Series 6 models, as well as the Apple Watch SE.
watch OS 8.1 has undergone roughly a month of beta testing before hitting stability, with Apple yesterday releasing watchOS 8.1 to the wider developers' community. Unlike the recently released iOS 15.1, watchOS 8.1 delivers a bunch of smaller updates to refine the OS for a better user experience rather than any heroic changes.
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Apple has focused much of its recent efforts on the SharePlay feature for iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and Mac users. In particular, the Share with You feature provides users with lots more ways to manage items that people send in Messages. These big-hitter features turn heads; in comparison, watchOS 8.1's smaller suite of improvements can feel a touch lackluster but it doesn't mean they aren't useful.
Despite the more diminutive nature of watchOS 8.1's updates, users still get several fitness-related improvements. Chief amongst these is Fitness+ support for SharePlay, enabling subscribers to invite up to a maximum of 32 people to collaboratively workout through a FaceTime call. Apple says on its official blog (opens in new tab) that users can also meditate together as a group with people from around the world. All of these new tricks comprise part of Apple's grand plan to develop a fitness service built entirely around the Apple Watch and designed to be welcoming to all.
Commencing November 3, Fitness+ will add 15 new countries to its roster, bringing the total number of countries able to access the service to 21. Apple notes that in both new and existing markets, Fitness+ will be available in English, with subtitles in Brazilian Portuguese, English, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish.
watchOS 8.1 isn't exactly groundbreaking in what new features it brings to the platform, but what it does deliver is new ways to collaboratively work out and meet people – something which companies are increasingly looking to add to their platforms, albeit cautiously, as we readjust to the world after the pandemic meant we all had to isolate for months on end.