Along with iOS 16, Apple has launched watchOS 9, which brings new features and enhanced experiences to the Apple Watch.
New and Expanded Watch Faces
watchOS 9 introduces four new faces: Lunar, which depicts the relationship between the Gregorian calendar and lunar calendar, used in many cultures such as Chinese, Hebrew, and Islamic; 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 turned; and Astronomy, an original face that has been completely remastered and features a new star map and current cloud data.
Apple says that watchOS 9 brings enhanced and modernized complications to some classic watch faces, such as Utility, Simple, and Activity Analog, along with background color editing for Modular, Modular Compact, and X-Large for additional personalization. The Portraits face showcases the depth effect on more photos, including cats, dogs, and landscapes, while Chinese scripts have been added as options for California and Typograph watch faces.
For the first time, any Apple Watch user running watchOS 9 — even those without a Nike model — will be able to access all the Nike watch faces, including the fresh colors coming to the Bounce face.
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.
Updates for runners
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. These metrics appear in the Fitness app summary and in the Health app, where users can see trends over time and learn from patterns.
A new Pacer experience lets users choose a distance and goal for the time in which they want to complete a run, and calculates the pace required to achieve the goal. During the workout, they can follow the pace alerts and metrics provided.
Coming later this year, Race Route will enable users to race against their best or last result on frequently completed routes, and receive in-session pacing guidance. A new Track running experience, also coming later this year (to the US), automatically detects that users are at a running track, and uses Apple Maps data along with GPS to provide the ultimate pace and distance metrics for runners.
Enhancements for swimmers
With watchOS 9, Kickboard has been added as a new stroke type for Pool Swim workouts, using sensor fusion on Apple Watch to automatically detect when users are swimming with a kickboard and classify the stroke type in the workout summary along with distance swam. Swimmers can now track their efficiency with a SWOLF score — a stroke count combined with the time, in seconds, it takes to swim one length of the pool. Users can view their SWOLF average for each set in the workout summary.
Revamped Compass app
A redesignedCompass app provides more in-depth information and new zoomable views, including a hybrid view that simultaneously shows both an analog compass dial and a digital view. Turning the Digital Crown reveals an additional view that includes latitude, longitude, elevation, and incline, as well as an orienteering view showing Compass Waypoints and Backtrack.
Backtrack uses GPS data to create a path showing where the user has been, which is useful if they get lost or disoriented and need help retracing their steps. It can also turn on automatically in the background when off the grid.
Apple says Compass Waypoints are a quick and convenient way to mark a location or point of interest directly in the app. Tapping the Compass Waypoint icon drops a waypoint. Selecting one provides a targeted view of the direction of the waypoint and an approximation of how far away it is.
The Sleep experience on Apple Watch already allows users to create Wind Down and Bedtime schedules, as well as track their sleep to help them meet their goals. 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 estimate when users are in REM, Core, or Deep sleep, and when they are awake. Users will see sleep stage data on Apple Watch in the Sleep app and can 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.
Apple says the machine learning models were trained and validated against the clinical gold standard, polysomnography, with one of the largest and most diverse populations ever studied for a wearable. As the science of sleep is still being explored, users in the US will be able to aid in potential discoveries by contributing their sleep stage data in the Apple Heart and Movement Study through the Research app.
Updates to cycling tracking
With iOS 16 and watchOS 9, Cycle Tracking users can now receive a notification if their logged cycle history shows a possible deviation, such as irregular, infrequent, or prolonged periods, and persistent spotting, which can be symptoms of underlying health conditions.
Research suggests that the amount of time spent in AFib may impact a person’s symptoms, overall quality of life, and risk of complications.1 Previously, there has not been an easy way to track the frequency of AFib over an extended period of time, or to manage lifestyle factors that may influence one’s condition.
However, according to Apple, with watchOS 9, users who are diagnosed with AFib can turn on the FDA-cleared AFib History feature2 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 frequency and view a detailed history in the Health app, including lifestyle factors that may influence AFib, like sleep, alcohol consumption, and exercise.
Users can download a PDF with a detailed history of their AFib and lifestyle factors, which can easily be shared with doctors and care providers for more informed conversations.
The new Medications experience on Apple Watch and iPhone is designed to help users manage and track their medications, vitamins, and supplements, allowing them to create a medications list, set up schedules and reminders, and view information on their medications in the Health app.
Apple says th Medications app on Apple Watch makes it easy for users to conveniently and discreetly track medications anytime, anywhere.
Custom schedules can be created for each medication, whether it needs to be taken multiple times a day, once a week, or as needed, and users can set up reminders to help keep them on track. In the US, users can quickly add medications using their iPhone camera, and receive an alert if there are potential critical interactions with medications they have added to the Health app.
Additional watchOS 9 features:
- Low Power Mode extends battery life, maintaining core Apple Watch features like Activity tracking and Fall Detection, while disabling or limiting select sensors and features like background heart rate monitoring and the Always-On display.
- Users can now stay connected to a cellular network while traveling abroad with international roaming plans.
- Notifications have been redesigned to be less interruptive while still being impactful, arriving with new slimline banners when Apple Watch is being actively used.
- Coming later this year, Family Setup will support the Home app so a child can be invited as a member to control HomePod speakers and smart home accessories.5 They will also be able to use home keys and hotel keys in Apple Wallet.
- With new Quick Actions on Apple Watch, users with upper body limb differences can do even more with a double-pinch gesture, including answer or end a phone call, take a photo, play or pause media in the Now Playing app, and start, pause, or resume a workout.
- Apple Watch becomes more accessible than ever for people with physical and motor disabilities with Apple Watch Mirroring,which helps users control Apple Watch remotely from their paired iPhone. With Apple Watch Mirroring, users can drive Apple Watch using assistive features on iPhone like Voice Control and Switch Control — so they can navigate Apple Watch by using their voice, sound actions, head tracking, and external Made for iPhone switches as alternatives to tapping the Apple Watch display.
- The QWERTY keyboard on Apple Watch Series 7, Apple Watch Series 8, and Apple Watch Ultra now has support for French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish (Mexico, Spain, Latin America).
- The updated Calendar app allows the creation of new events directly from Apple Watch. For the first time, users can access a Week view in addition to updated List, Day, and Month views to support more scrolling through calendar events.
- Cardio Recovery is a useful fitness metric that can be an indicator of cardiovascular health. Apple Watch now provides estimates of Cardio Recovery after an Outdoor Walk, Run, or Hiking workout, even when the workout does not reach peak intensity. This metric can be tracked over time in the Health app.
- New APIs allow developers to build best-in-class third-party apps, with CallKit and share sheet support, access to Photos picker, and the ability to integrate watchOS apps with Apple TV.
watchOS 9 is available as a free software update starting today for Apple Watch Series 4 or later paired with iPhone 8 or later and iPhone SE (2nd generation) or later, running iOS 16.
WatchOS 9 can be downloaded for free through the dedicated Apple Watch app on the iPhone by going to General > Software Update. To install the new software, the Apple Watch needs to have at least 50% battery, it needs to be placed on a charger, and it needs to be in range of the iPhone.