WatchOS 6: Everything you need to know about the new features, faces, and functions

The Apple Watch is getting real independence.

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by Macworld's Editors

Top Deals On Great Products

Picked by Techconnect's Editors

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:

Update 09/19/16: WatchOS 6 has been release for Apple Watch Series 3 and 4. Series 1 and 2 will get the update later this fall (read more about Apple's odd staggered fall software releases).

watchOS 6: How do I get it?

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

App Store

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.

watch os 6 ind apps Apple

Apple running on watchOS 6 won't need an iPhone to install.


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 watchos 6 noise Apple

The Noise app doesn't record the audio it hears.

Cycle Tracking

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.

watchos 6 female health Apple

WatchOS 6 will bring female health tracking through the Cycles 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 faces Apple

WatchOS 6 is delivering lots of new Watch Faces and complications.

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.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon