With the launch of the Series 5 Apple Watch in the fall comes a new OS, the sixth major release since Apple’s wearable debuted in 2015. At its WWDC in June, Apple showed off some of the major new features of its ultra-mobile OS, and there are some big changes in store for your wrist. Here’s everything that’s new in watchOS 6, and how to get it on your Apple Watch:
Open the Watch app on the iPhone you’ve paired with your Apple Watch. Then tap General and then Software Update. Your Apple Watch will need to be on the charger and charged up to at least 50% to complete the update process.
You’ll first have to update your iPhone to iOS 13 and we recommend updating all your apps and such before you update your Apple Watch.
If you have a Series 3 or 4 Apple Watch, the update is available now. If you have Series 1 or 2, the update is coming later this fall.
watchOS 6: Which Apple Watches are compatible?
Like watchOS 5, every Apple Watch except the original model will be able to run watchOS 6:
Apple Watch Series 1
Apple Watch Series 2
Apple Watch Series 3
Apple Watch Series 4
It will also require an iPhone running iOS 13, which means you’ll need an iPhone 6s, iPhone SE, or later. And as always, Apple cautions that some features won’t be available on all models, but it hasn’t offered any guidance as to which models will get which features.
watchOS 6: Features
The biggest change in watchOS 6 is the inclusion of an on-watch App Store. In prior versions of watchOS, you need to hit up your phone whenever you want to download a new app for your watch, which isn’t the most convenient method. In watchOS 6, you’ll be able to simply tap your wrist or ask Siri to find and install apps. According to Apple, you’ll also be able to browse curated collections of apps, search the store using Scribble or Dictation, and browse screenshots and check reviews, all on your wrist. And you won’t need to have a companion app on your phone anymore, either.
Apple has introduced a new app in watchOS 6 specifically designed to protect your hearing. As its name suggest, the new Noise app will constantly monitor background noise and spring into action when it detects a sound that reaches a level that may pose a risk to your hearing. So when your Apple Watch detects that the decibel level in the room you’re in has risen to a dangerous level, it will notify you with a tap on the wrist.
Apple’s new app isn’t for bicyclists—it’s for women. Cycle Tracking in watchOS 6 brings female health to the Apple Watch with easy logging of flow level, symptoms, cycle length and variation. With the information, the Cycle Tracking app can alert you when it predicts that your next period or fertile window is about to start. And of course, everything is synced back to your phone via the Health app.
Other new apps
Along with a store, Apple is also introducing several new apps with watchOS 6.
Audiobooks: Apple is finally bringing a direct way to listen to Apple Books on the Apple Watch with the new Audiobooks app. And Apple Books titles in your Reading Now list are automatically synced to your watch so you won’t lose your place.
Calculator: It’s long overdue, but you’ll finally be able to add and subtract on your Apple Watch without downloading a third-party app.
Voice Memos: A longtime iPhone staple, Apple will let you record Voice Memos on your Apple Watch so you won’t need to reach for iPhone when inspiration strikes.
watchOS 6: New Watch faces
Every new watchOS release brings a handful of new watch faces, and version 6 is no exception. There are six new faces making their debut in WatchOS 6, ranging from the ultra-simple Numerals and Gradient faces to the sleek California and complication-heavy Modular Compact. And finally there’s Solar Dial, which mimics the classic elegance of a high-end moonphase complication.
watchOS 6: Other tweaks and minor changes
Along with the new apps and faces, Apple is bringing a slew of other changes to watchOS 6. We’ll update this post as we learn more about them, but here’s what we know so far:
Enhanced Siri: You’ll finally be able to use Siri on your Watch to identify songs from Shazam. And if you ask Siri to search something, you won’t be limited to just one result anymore. Siri will offer up several results that you can scroll through until you find the one you want.
Activity Trends: In addition to the trademark activity rings that show your daily Move, Exercise and Stand totals, your Apple Watch will now show yearly trends so you can stay on track over the long term.
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Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He's still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.