(Pocket-lint) - Apple tends to release one major software update a year for iPhone, iPad and Watch, with smaller updates pushed throughout the year.
The next big update for Apple Watch is watchOS 8. Here are all the features Apple announced are coming to the Apple Watch with watchOS 8, coupled with what other features we'd still like to see and what the rumours have said at the bottom.
watchOS 8 release date
- Some features announced at WWDC
- Public release likely September 2021
Apple announced some of the key features coming to Apple Watch with watchOS 8 during its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC).
A developer beta of the watchOS 8 software is already available, while the public beta is expected in July. Apple has said the actual release will arrive in the "Fall", which typically means early September and likely to be around the time the Apple Watch Series 7 is also expected.
watchOS 8 features
Portraits Watch Face
Apple Watch is getting a new Portrait Watch Face with watchOS 8. The dynamic, multi-layered face uses Portrait photos from your iPhone to put people at the front and centre of your Watch.
Any Memories and Featured Photos will automatically sync to your Apple Watch with watchOS 8, offering you something new all the time. There's also a new mosaic grid for your Memories and you'll be able to share photos with a couple of taps to Messages and Mail.
Messages on Apple Watch are getting some new features with watchOS 8 including the ability to compose a message using dictation, scribble and emojis at once. You'll also be able to edit errors in dictation by using the Digital Crown, and will be able to send GIFs too.
The Music app is being redesigned on Apple Watch with watchOS 8, allowing you to share songs, albums and playlists through Messages and Mail.
As with iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, watchOS 8 is also bringing a new feature called Focus that allows you to filter out distractions depending on what you are doing. There are standard Focus statuses to choose from - Do Not Disturb, Fitness, Work and Sleep - but you can also sync a custom Focus you have created on your iPhone, iPad or Mac too.
Contacts who message you will get an automatic reply that you are in "Focus Time", but they will be able to get through with an urgent message if they need to.
Apple normally adds some extra workout modes with every major software build and the ones coming to watchOS 8 are Tai Chi and Pilates. They join the already extensive list of workouts available on Apple Watch, including ones like Dance and a specific one for Cool Down that were launched in 2020.
Apple's Fitness+ subscription service is getting some improvements too with watchOS 8. The service will see some new workouts from Jeanette Jenkins, who focuses on strength and hiit training, joining those already available, and voice feedback will be coming too.
There will also be some Artist Spotlight workouts that have a playlist from one particular artist, like Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopaz, Keith Urban and Alicia Keys, and watchOS 8 will support picture-in-picture for workouts as well. Additionally, there will also be extra filters to help you nail down a workout perfect for you.
New Breathe app
As rumours predicted, watchOS 8 is revamping the Breathe app into new app called Mindfulness that not only encourages you to focus on your breathing throughout the day, but also reflect.
It will remind you to do things like, think about something you like to do and remind yourself why it brings you joy, whilst focusing on the animation on the screen. The Breathe and Reflect sessions will end with a summary of Mindful Minutes, along with your average heart rate.
Better Family Setup features
The watchOS 8 software will bring support for transit cards in certain regions so family members can use public transportation, and there will also be support for the Mail and Calendar accounts. Hiking metrics will also be validated for kids in watchOS 8.
AssistiveTouch will arrive with watchOS 8, enabling users with upper body limb differences to use Apple Watch without having to touch the display or controls.
Sleep tracking is already available on Apple Watch with watchOS 7, but watchOS 8 will add respiratory rate to the sleep tracking metrics. This is the number of breaths you take per minute. It will go towards tracking your overall wellness.
Along with the additional metric, watchOS 8 will bring Sleep Trends into the Health app on iOS 15.
Always on display improvements
The Always On Display - which is available on the Series 5 and Series 6 - will support additional apps with watchOS 8, including Alarms, Maps, Stopwatch and some third-party apps.
There will be a new Contacts app on watchOS 8 that will allow you to browse, add, or edit contacts directly from your Apple Watch.
There are a number of changes coming to the Wallet app with watchOS 8. Not only will you be able to store a digital key to your home on your Watch, if you have a compatible lock, but you will be able to share a digital key with family members too.
In some US states, you will also be able to store your digital ID in the Wallet app too, and if you have a compatible car and Apple Watch Series 6 with UWB technology, watchOS 8 will bring the ability to unlock your car using your Apple Watch from a distance.
Apple Watch will see the Find My app come with watchOS 8, allowing you to track down your devices directly from your wrist, and now just family and friends, as you can on watchOS 7.
There are a few changes to the Home app on watchOS 8, including automatic suggestions for connected devices nearby to one that is activated. For example, if someone rings your doorbell, you might get the suggestion of unlocking the door.
There's a new Camera room where you can access all your security cameras, and there is quicker access to scenes too with watchOS 8 uses intelligence to serve up the ones it thinks you are most likely going to want to use. Additionally, the status of your devices will appear at the top of the Home app.
The Weather app on Apple Watch will support severe weather warnings with watchOS 8. You will also be able to see next-hour precipitation alerts and see rain intensity.
With watchOS 8, you'll be able to see real-time headphone levels in Control Centre when you're listening to media, as you can on iPhone and iPad.
watchOS 8 what else we want to see
Here are a few things we'd still like to see the watchOS 8 software build offer:
- Better, more advanced sleep tracking
- Extra fitness and health features, like blood glucose monitoring
- More audio fitness, like interval training
- Fitness recovery features, like Garmin's Body Battery
- Custom watch faces
watchOS 8 compatibility: Will my Apple Watches be supported?
Here are all the Apple Watch models confirmed to support watchOS 8:
- Apple Watch Series 3
- Apple Watch Series 4
- Apple Watch Series 5
- Apple Watch Series 6
- Apple Watch SE
watchOS 8 rumours: What's happened so far?
Here's everything we have heard so far about watchOS 8.
7 June 2021: New version of Apple Watch Breathe app suggested in code
A new profile leaked early for the Apple Watch App Store suggests Apple is working on some form of Mind feature. It's thought the company could offer a new version of the Breathe app.
3 May 2021: Will the next Apple Watch read blood sugar and alcohol levels? Possibly
A major feature coming to the Apple Watch could have been revealed in an SEC filing for UK-based startup Rockley Photonics.
Rockley Photonics designs sensors for monitoring a person's blood using infrared light. The sensors could be used for monitoring blood glucose and alcohol levels.
26 March 2021: Apple considering 2021 launch for 'Explorer Edition' Watch designed for extreme conditions and athletes
A report from Bloomberg suggested Apple is considering the launch of an all-new Apple Watch model designed for athletes, hikers and those who would use the smartwatch in extreme environments. It is said to launch in 2021 or 2022 and possibly offer a rubberised case.
15 February 2021: No glucose monitoring coming to Series 7 after all
Leaker Max Weinbach dispelled rumours that the Apple Watch Series 7 would feature glucose monitoring. It was a feature previously reported, but Weinbach claimed it isn't coming yet.
16 April 2020: Could a future Apple watch detect if you've fallen into a river?
According to an Apple patent, a future Apple Watch could detect the type of water its in and therefore assess if you've fallen into a river or the sea and then assess your situation. For example, if your watch's GPS assesses you're in deep water it could be set to alert authorities.
16 January 2019: Three big health features rumoured
The Fast Company reported that Apple has hired numerous clinicians and engineers to work on health features for the Apple Watch, which are said to include blood pressure, blood glucose or diabetes management and sleep tracking or science. Given these didn't appear on the Series 6, perhaps they are destined for the Series 7?