At its annual WWDC kickoff keynote, Apple unveiled the latest version of watchOS 9 with a handful of new features designed to keep you healthier and more connected. Here are the top features coming to your Apple Watch this fall.
New watch faces
It wouldn’t be a watchOS update without new watch faces. This year Apple has four new ones, including a “completely remastered” classic face. Here’s how Apple describes the new faces:
Lunar: 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.
You’ll also get “enhanced and modernized” complications on many of Apple’s classic faces, including Utility, Simple, and Activity Analog, along with background color editing for Modular, Modular Compact, and X-Large for additional personalization. And the Portraits, Focus, and California faces have some new features, as well.
Workout is the go-to app for fitness enthusiasts and it’s getting a lot better in watchOS 9. The app will now provide richer metrics for measuring performance, as well as new training experiences. Users can also use the Digital Crown to cycle to cycle between Workout Views.
Custom Workouts and Heart Rate Zones will help athletes keep better track of their progress while new alerts for pace, power, heart rate, and cadence will give you a live picture of your metrics. Triathetes will also be able to use the new Multisport workout type that automatically switches between swimming, biking, and running using the Apple Watch’s sensors to recognize movement patterns.
Runners will also get more out of watchOS 9 with new running form metrics, including Stride Length, Ground Contact Time, and Vertical Oscillation, which can all be added as metrics on Workout Views. Finally, swimmers can now track their efficiency with a SWOLF score—stroke count combined with the time it takes to swim one length of the pool.
Smarter sleep tracking
After bringing sleep tracking to watchOS 7, Apple has enhanced the system in watchOS 9 with the addition of sleep stages. Like Fitbit watches, Apple will use the accelerometer and heart rate sensor to determine when you’re in REM, Core, or Deep sleep. Users will then be able to view detailed information about the time and quality of their sleep with additional metrics including heart rate and respiratory rate, in sleep comparison charts in the Health app.
The Apple Watch has been able to detect possible signs of atrial fibrillation (AFib), but there hasn’t been a way to see your previous readings. In watchOS 9, there is. Apple Watch users who are diagnosed with AFib will be prompted to turn on the new FDA-cleared AFib History feature and access important information to provide deeper insights into their condition. Users will also be able to download a PDF with a detailed history of their AFib and lifestyle factors.
Apple is bringing a new Medications app in watchOS 9 to help users track and manage prescription mediations, daily vitamins, and supplements. You’ll be able to create a medications list, and set up schedules and reminders in the Health app. Each medication will be able to have a custom schedule and users can receive alerts when there are potential issues with two or more medications used together.
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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.