WatchOS 9 will bring a number of new features to Apple Watches later this year, from new watch faces to expanded heart health information.
The next generation of Apple’s smartwatch operating system will be available as a free update this fall for the Apple Watch Series 4 or later. Yes, this means that Apple Watch Series 3 users will be excluded from the watchOS 9 party.
We plan to try out the public beta of watchOS 9 as soon as it arrives next month, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at the most exciting features Apple has announced for its next major smartwatch software release.
1. Expanded AFib Detection Capabilities
The Apple Watch can already alert you if it detects signs of atrial fibrillation(Opens in a new window) (AFib), an irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other serious complications. WatchOS 9 includes a new AFib history feature designed to help you track the frequency of this condition over an extended period. It will estimate how often your heartbeat shows signs of atrial fibrillation and the lifestyle factors that may influence it, such as sleep, alcohol consumption and exercise.
“Research suggests that time spent in atrial fibrillation can impact a person’s symptoms, overall quality of life, and risk of complications,” Apple wrote in a statement. Press release(Opens in a new window). “According to the American Heart Association, consideration of modifiable lifestyle factors can reduce time spent in atrial fibrillation.”
After enabling this feature, the watch will send you weekly AFib notifications. You can also access your detailed AFib history in the Health app and generate a PDF of that data to share with your doctor.
Apple says this new heart health feature is the first of its kind and has been approved by the FDA for US users ages 22 and older who have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. It builds on the Apple Watch’s already impressive suite of potentially life-saving tools, including fall detection, high/low heart rate alerts, and emergency SOS.
2. New drug app
Managing multiple medications is about to get a little easier. A new Medications app for Apple Watch and iPhone is designed to help users keep track of their prescriptions, vitamins and supplements. You can use your iPhone to scan your prescription bottles and easily create a medication list, set up schedules and reminders. As you build your medication list, the Health app alerts you to any potentially critical interactions between the medications you’re taking. The Apple Watch will then let you log when you’ve taken or skipped your meds.
3. Sleep stage tracking
Apple was late to the game when it added sleep tracking in 2020 as part of watchOS 7, and at launch the functionality was very basic. Last year, overnight breathing tracking made its way into watchOS 8, and now the next generation of its smartwatch operating system will monitor your sleep stages.
When you wear it to bed, the watch uses your heart rate and movement data to track the time you spend awake, in REM, deep (i.e. light) sleep, and deep sleep. Apple said it trained and validated its machine learning models “against the clinical gold standard, polysomnography, with one of the largest and most diverse populations ever studied for a wearable.”
You’ll see your sleep phase data in the Sleep app on the Apple Watch and in the Health app on the iPhone. If you want to participate in future sleep research, you can choose to contribute your sleep stage data to Apple’s Heart and Movement Study through the Research app.
Even with this new feature, the Apple Watch will lag behind the Samsung Galaxy Watch4 series on the sleep tracking front. Samsung’s latest flagship smartwatches can track your snoring and even record the audio if you need proof.
4. Race specific measures
The Apple Watch already has built-in GPS to track your route, pace, and distance when running outdoors. WatchOS 9 adds several running-specific metrics, including your stride length, ground contact time, and vertical oscillation.
Typically reserved for running-specific wearables, these metrics can help you gauge your performance and training progress. The vertical oscillation metric, for example, measures your vertical movement with each step and can help you determine if you’re wasting too much energy going uphill rather than forward. Stride length refers to the distance between your feet when running. Ground contact time indicates how long, in milliseconds, your foot is in contact with the ground when you hit the pavement. You can view these metrics in the Fitness app summary and monitor your trends over time in the Health app.
Another new running feature will keep track of the routes you take and give you the option to run against your best or last result. The watch will then send you an alert if you are ahead or behind your previous pace, or if you deviate from the route.
WatchOS 9 also offers a new stimulator feature to help you find your stride. After you choose a distance and time goal, the watch will provide pace alerts to help you stay on track.
5. Tracking multi-sport workouts
(Photo: Apple/Rene Ramos)
Attention, triathletes: A new multisport workout type is coming to the Apple Watch as part of watchOS 9. When tracking a multisport workout, the watch will automatically switch between cycling, running, and swimming, using motion sensor data to recognize your movement. patterns. Your post-workout summary in the Fitness app will show detailed information for each segment. This new workout option will help the Apple Watch better compete with triathlete-specific watches like the Garmin Forerunner 745 and Polar Vantage V2.
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It comes after Apple last year updated the Workout app with Pilates and Tai Chi tracking options as part of watchOS 8. In 2020, the company added tracking options for dance, l core training, cooling down and functional strength training with watchOS 7.
6. Heart rate zone data
WatchOS 9 also adds a new heart rate zone feature that can help you monitor your intensity during workouts. Many other fitness trackers already show what heart rate zone you’re in and keep track of how long you spend in each one, so I’m glad Apple is catching up here. Some Fitbit wearables like the Charge 5 can also notify you when you reach a target heart rate zone during your workout.
Apple says you’ll be able to manually create your heart rate zones or have the watch calculate them automatically using existing health data. You’ll also be able to create custom workouts that include work and rest intervals, and set up alerts to get notified when you hit a certain pace, power, heart rate, or cadence goal.
7. New watch faces
New watch faces, left to right: Metropolitan, Playtime, Lunar, Astronomy (Image: Apple/René Ramos)
New Apple Watch faces are pretty much a given with every watchOS update, and this year users are getting four new ones. This includes: Lunar, with Chinese, Islamic and Hebrew calendars; Playtime, created in collaboration with artist Joi Fulton with whimsical animated numbers; Metropolitan, a typography-focused face that changes as you rotate the digital crown; and astronomy, which has been revamped to feature a new star map and current cloud data.
8. Calendar Updates
The Apple Watch Calendar app is also getting a major update in watchOS 9. Most notably, you’ll now be able to add new events to your calendar directly from the Apple Watch, which should save you time and hassle. The Calendar app will also offer a new Week view in addition to the updated List, Day, and Month views, so you can more easily see what’s on your calendar.
9. Revamped Notifications, Dock
Apple Watch docking station (Photo: Apple)
Apple says it’s redesigned notifications in watchOS 9 “to be less disruptive” while still keeping you in the know. When you’re actively using the Apple Watch, notifications will appear as new “thin banners,” for example.
The company has also revamped the Apple Watch Dock, which lets you quickly open frequently used apps and switch between them. For faster multitasking, the Dock will now promote the apps you’re actively using over any others you have open in the background.
The best new features coming to iOS 16
WatchOS 9 isn’t the only update we’re excited for. Cupertino also has significant changes in store for iPhones as part of iOS 16 later this year. From new lock screen customization options to iMessage editing, check out the iOS 16 features we’re most excited to use. For more, read our hands-on Apple MacBook Air M2 and video below.
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