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(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 coming to the Apple Watch with watchOS 8.

watchOS 8 release date

  • 20 September 2021

Apple's watchOS 8 software will be available to download alongside iOS 15 on 20 September 2021.

A developer beta and public beta of the watchOS 8 software were available before but this date is when the full release will appear.

watchOS 8 features

The updates to Apple Watch with watchOS 8 aren't quite as vast as the features coming iPhone with iOS 15 and iPad with iPadOS 15, but here are all the features:

AppleApple watchOS 8 release date and all the features coming to your Apple Watch photo 7

Portraits Watch Face

Apple Watch gets 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. 

Photos

Any Memories and Featured Photos 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 can share photos with a couple of taps to Messages and Mail.

Messages

Messages on Apple Watch get some new features with watchOS 8 including the ability to compose a message using dictation, scribble and emojis at once. You can also edit errors in dictation by using the Digital Crown, and send GIFs too.

Music

The Music app has been redesigned on Apple Watch with watchOS 8, allowing you to share songs, albums and playlists through Messages and Mail.

Fall Detection

Fall Detection will be added to workouts, including cycling with watchOS 8.

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Focus

As with iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, watchOS 8 brings 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.

New workouts

Apple normally adds some extra workout modes with every major software build and the ones that arrive with 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.

Fitness+ improvements

Apple's Fitness+ subscription service gets some improvements too with watchOS 8. The service sees some new workouts from Jeanette Jenkins, who focuses on strength and hiit training, joining those already available, and voice feedback also arrives.

There are also 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 supports picture-in-picture for workouts as well. Additionally, there are also extra filters to help you nail down a workout perfect for you.

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New Breathe app

watchOS 8 revamps 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 reminds 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 brings support for transit cards in certain regions so family members can use public transportation, and there is also support for the Mail and Calendar accounts. Hiking metrics are also validated for kids in watchOS 8. 

AssistiveTouch

AssistiveTouch arrives with watchOS 8, enabling users with upper body limb differences to use Apple Watch without having to touch the display or controls.

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Sleep tracking

Sleep tracking is already available on Apple Watch with watchOS 7, but watchOS 8 adds respiratory rate to the sleep tracking metrics. This is the number of breaths you take per minute. It goes towards tracking your overall wellness. 

Along with the additional metric, watchOS 8 brings Sleep Trends into the Health app on iOS 15.

Always on display improvements

The Always On Display - which is available on the Series 5, Series 6 and new Series 7 - supports additional apps with watchOS 8, including Alarms, Maps, Stopwatch and some third-party apps.

Contacts app

There is a new Contacts app on watchOS 8 that allows you to browse, add, or edit contacts directly from your Apple Watch.

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Wallet

There are a number of changes to the Wallet app with watchOS 8. Not only can you store a digital key to your home on your Watch, if you have a compatible lock, but you can share a digital key with family members too.

In some US states, you can also store your digital ID in the Wallet app too, and if you have a compatible car and Apple Watch Series 7 or Apple Watch Series 6 with UWB technology, watchOS 8 brings the ability to unlock your car using your Apple Watch from a distance.

Find My

Apple Watch sees the Find My app come with watchOS 8, allowing you to track down your devices directly from your wrist, and not just family and friends, as you could on watchOS 7. 

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Home

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.

Weather 

The Weather app on Apple Watch supports severe weather warnings with watchOS 8. You'll also see next-hour precipitation alerts and see rain intensity.

Audio controls

With watchOS 8, you'll 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:

    Apple watchOS 7: All the key new Apple Watch features explored

    • 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 Watch 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
    Writing by Britta O'Boyle.