WatchOS 8 for the Apple Watch has been announced during the keynote presentation at WWDC 2021, Apple’s annual developer conference. What’s new in WatchOS 8? Apple sped through the new features during the keynote, so here’s what it has shown us so far, but more could be revealed about the new software between now and release later this year.
Health and fitness
First up is the Breathe app. Apple says its mindfulness app has grown in popularity recently, which is no real surprise given the year we’ve all had, and for WatchOS 8 it has been enhanced with a new animation to help you center and breathe more calmly. Reflect is a new feature, with a soothing animation to help you focus on the things you enjoy and destress. In Sleep tracking, WatchOS 8 now tracks respiratory rate to look for any trend change and identify potential problems. Data is shown in the Health app.
In WatchOS 8’s Workouts app you’ll find a new Tai Chi workout mode has been added in, along with a new pilates workout too. In the Fitness+ app there are seven new high intensity workout plans from fitness trainer Jeanette Jenkins. There is also a new Artist Spotlight series in Fitness+ with motivational musical playlists from some big names including Lady Gaga.
Portraits and photos
Outside of fitness and health, WatchOS 8 has a new Portraits watch face. Using Portrait shots taken with your iPhone, the watch face adds further depth to the shots so they look great on the Apple Watch’s screen, and you can further customize the look by choosing the look and where to place the time. Twist the Digital Crown and you can even zoom in and out of the photo.
The Photos app on your Watch has been redesigned with access to Memory Highlights and Featured Photos. Photos can be selected, scrolled through on the screen, and shared directly through a new, easy to use Message system. Text in messages can be edited or dictated, plus GIFs can be added to your Messages on the Watch too. Text can be added to messages using the scribble, keyboard, and dictation feature all at the same time, to really help speed the process up.
Other new features
What else? Expect to see a new contacts app, a redesign of the music app, the chance to set multiple timers at one time, weather alerts, and an enhancement to the Noise app that measures audio volume exposure for headphones in real time. The new Focus feature introduced with iOS 15, where you can choose different settings to tailor notifications, will also be added to the Apple Watch. Another iOS 15 feature coming to the watch is the updated Wallet with storage for your home key, car key, and photographic identification.
The Always-on screen, which is available on the Apple Watch Series 5 and Series 6, will work with additional apps and show details from the stopwatch, alarm, and Apple Maps, plus developers will be able to add support for their own apps too. Working with Apple’s Home app, WatchOS 8 will let you carry out features like unlocking doors or viewing doorbell cameras on the Apple Watch, and view the current status of connected hardware.
When will it arrive?
When will you get WatchOS 8? Apple will release the developer beta previews today, and a public beta version for everyone else to download will arrive in July. The final release will arrive during the fall, but the exact date won’t be known until much closer to the time. It will be compatible with the Apple Watch Series 3, Series 4, Series 5, Series 6, and the Apple Watch SE.