watchOS 9 now available: 7 features you need to try immediately

The latest version of watchOS will make your Apple Watch even more useful and personal than before

Apple WatchOS 9 update
(Image credit: Apple)

You don't need to buy the Apple Watch Series 8 or Apple Watch Ultra to get that new-watch feeling: watchOS 9, the latest version of Apple's operating system for its smartwatch, is available now and introduces some key new features. Provided you have an Apple Watch SE / Apple Watch Series 4 or later, it'll make your existing Apple Watch even better.

Here are the seven features I like most about the new OS.

1. There are more faces and complications

The new Lunar and Metropolitan watch faces are gorgeous, and existing faces now benefit from a wider selection of complications to show more useful information than before. And I really love the new background colours on selected faces (Modular, Modular Compact and X-Large) that you can use to personalise faces and make them match your outfit. As a dog owner, the new dog and cat support in the Portraits face is a winner for me too.

2. Sleep tracking is much better too

Sleep now tracks sleep stages so you can see at a glance when you've been having cheese-fuelled nightmares. The Health app now shows additional sleep data including your heart and respiratory rate as you go through the night to help deliver more insights into what's happening when you're in bed.

3. Workouts are much more flexible and informative

As someone who reckons they deserve a medal for making it to the fridge, I'm not going to claim first hand experience of these. But the new Workout views provide much more information than before, with more customisation options and useful new features such as Heart Rate Zones to help you track your exercise intensity levels.

4. Low power mode doesn't suck

Before now, low power mode on your Apple Watch made it effectively useless: it disabled everything bar the time signal, which might display after various pinches, punches or prayers. Now, though, the battery percentage in Control Centre has a new Low Power Mode that isn't quite so harsh. It turns off features such as body monitoring sensors and the always-on display, but it doesn't turn your watch into a bracelet in the name of conserving energy.

5. Medications is really useful

Whether it's life-saving meds or life-enhancing supplements, the new Medications app ensures you take the right things at the right time. That's particularly useful if you've got to take what looks like a tube of Smarties at different times in the day, and it's easy and fast to log so you won't end up being annoyed by the app.

6. It's more accessible

With Quick Actions such as Double-Pinch to take a photo or start a workout and Apple Watch mirroring, this version of watchOS is even more accessible than before. In a nice touch you can use Switch Control and Voice Control on your iPhone to control your Apple Watch.

7. The new notifications are great

Apple has revised the notifications system across its various devices, and on the Watch that means they appear as banners at the top of your screen when you're doing something else. If you aren't, they'll appear as full sized notifications, just like before. It's a little thing but it's a very welcome improvement: previously notifications could become annoying if they forced you to switch focus to a notification you didn't really need to know about.

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com (opens in new tab)).