After focusing on iOS 16 at WWDC 2022, Apple went on to demonstrate the new features coming to watchOS 9 for the Apple Watch. There are tons of really impressive features this year with the main focus on health and fitness.
The beauty of these watchOS 9 features is that they won't just benefit those looking to buy the next Apple Watch Series 8, but they will also be available on older Apple Watch models. You'll still have to wait until it launches in September but the changes will transform your smartwatch for the better.
The keynote didn't solely focus on health and fitness, though, we also got a glimpse of new personalisation features, as well as new UI features that make the Apple Watch easier to operate.
Here are the biggest and best changes coming in watchOS 9:
1. More watch faces
watchOS 9 introduces four new watch faces:
- Lunar, which depicts the relationship between the Gregorian calendar and lunar calendar, used in many cultures such as Chinese, Islamic, and Hebrew
- Playtime, a dynamic piece of art that’s unique to Apple Watch and created in collaboration with artist Joi Fulton
- Metropolitan, a classic, type-driven watch face where the style changes as the Digital Crown is rotated
- Astronomy, an original face that has been completely remastered and features a new star map and current cloud data
If that wasn't enough, watchOS 9 also introduces enhanced and modernised complications on some of the most classic watch faces, along with background colour editing for Modular, Modular Compact, and X-Large for additional personalisation.
Focus now allows users to select an Apple Watch face to automatically appear when they start a specific Focus on iPhone, such as the Photos face during a Personal Focus, helping users stay in the moment.
2. Workout App Updates
The Workout app has been updated to provide richer data for measuring performance, as well as new training experiences to help you reach your fitness goals.
The familiar in-session display now uses the Digital Crown to rotate between easy-to-read Workout Views, so you can see important metrics for different training styles.
Heart Rate Zones, which we were shocked weren't already available on the Apple Watch, can now be manually created or automatically calculated using personalised Health data, and can be used to monitor the intensity of a workout.
Interval training is an important part of any training plan, and in watchOS 9, the Workout app introduces Custom Workouts, which can be used to create a structured workout that can include work and rest intervals.
For triathletes, the Workout app now supports a new Multisport workout type that automatically switches between any sequence of swimming, biking, and running workouts.
watchOS 9 brings more data and features to help track how efficiently users run. New running form metrics, including Stride Length, Ground Contact Time, and Vertical Oscillation, can all be added as metrics on Workout Views and viewed in the Fitness app summary.
You can choose to race against your best or last result on frequently used routes, and receive alerts during the workout for being ahead or behind your pace. Additionally, a new pacer experience lets your choose a distance and goal for the time in which you want to complete a run, and calculates the pace required to achieve the goal.
Finally for watchOS 9 fitness, Fitness+ workouts now display on-screen guidance in addition to trainer coaching to help users get the most out of workouts.
3. More detailed sleep tracking
Sleep tracking in watchOS 9 provides even more insights with the introduction of sleep stages. Using signals from the accelerometer and heart rate sensor, Apple Watch can detect when users are in REM, Core, or Deep sleep.
You'll be able to see sleep stage data on the Apple Watch in the Sleep app or view more detailed information, like time asleep, alongside additional metrics, like heart rate and respiratory rate, in sleep comparison charts in the Health app on iPhone.
4. AFib History and Medication tracking
Currently, the ECG app and irregular rhythm notification on Apple Watch can identify potential signs of atrial fibrillation (AFib). Now with watchOS 9, users who are diagnosed with AFib can turn on the FDA-cleared 'AFib History' feature and access important information, including an estimate of how frequently a user’s heart rhythm shows signs of AFib, providing deeper insights into their condition.
Users will also receive weekly notifications to understand the frequency and view a detailed history in the Health app, including lifestyle factors that may influence AFib, like sleep, alcohol consumption, and exercise. This can be downloaded as a PDF and shared with a doctor.
In other health news, the new Medications experience on Apple Watch and iPhone helps you manage and track your medications, vitamins, and supplements.
You can create a medications list, set up schedules and reminders, and view information on your medications in the Health app.
5. General watchOS UI improvements
As well as all of the big new features above, Apple has also focused on polishing the Apple Watch experience.
With new 'Quick Actions' you can do even more with a double-pinch gesture, and with Apple Watch Mirroring, users control Apple Watch remotely from their paired iPhone. This makes the device more accessible than ever for people with physical and motor disabilities.
The QWERTY keyboard on Apple Watch Series 7 adds support for French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese (Brazil), and Spanish (Mexico, Spain, and Latin America).
Apps that are actively in use are now promoted over the rest of the apps in the redesigned Dock, making it easier for users to quickly return to them.
The Reminders app now lets users add or edit key details such as date and time, location, tags, and notes.
And, finally, you can stay productive with the updated Calendar app by creating new events directly from Apple Watch.