For 2022, the updated software is called watchOS 9, which Apple previewed during WWDC in June, giving us an idea of the features we can expect on the Apple Watch later this year.
Here is everything you need to know about watchOS 9, including its features, when it is expected to be released and what Apple Watch models will be compatible.
WatchOS 9 release date
- Unveil date: 6 June 2022 at WWDC
- Beta date: Likely around July 2022
- Official release date: Likely September 2022
Apple announced the next major software update - watchOS 9 - for the Apple Watch at its annual developer conference, WWDC, on 6 June 2022. A beta for developers will likely be available soon, followed by a public beta in July that anyone can test.
An official rollout for all newer Apple Watch models likely won't arrive until autumn - or at the same time as the next Apple Watch. For reference, Apple announced watchOS 8 and its developer beta in June 2021. The first public beta went live in July 2021, and the official release happened in September 2021. With watchOS 9 debuting in June, with a public beta likely following in July, we're expecting a full launch in September 2022.
WatchOS 9: How to try the public beta
The watchOS 9 public beta is not yet available. It will probably go live this summer after the developer beta. Pocket-lint will update this guide to tell you when it becomes available.
At that time, you will be able to install it quickly and easily. Just go to the website for Apple's beta software program and then follow the on-site instructions. It's free and takes less than five minutes to complete.
WatchOS 9: Which Apple Watches are compatible?
- watchOS 9 compatibility: Apple Watch 4 and newer (including the SE)
The Apple Watch 3 - a four-year-old smartwatch - is on the chopping block and won't be compatible with watchOS 9. The Apple Watch 4, Apple Watch 5, and Apple Watch 6 will be eligible for watchOS 9 however.
WatchOS 9 features
Apple previewed watchOS 9 during WWDC, giving a run down of the features coming to Apple Watch later this year. Here are some of the best features arriving with watchOS 9.
A number of updates are coming to the Workout app with watchOS 9 including the ability to see more when you're working out by turning the Digital Crown.
You'll also be able to customise your workouts by tailoring work and recovery intervals, and Heart Rate Zones are coming that will be automatically calculated and personalised using your health data.
Other Workout updates include Multisport that transitions between swimming, running and cycling, the addition of Kickboard (swimming with a float) being automatically recognised and there are multiple running updates too.
The watchOS 9 software update will give you instant feedback on your pace with dynamic pacing to help you reach goals, and you can race your route too, as well as add Stride Length, Ground Contact Time and Vertical Oscillation to your Workout Views.
Other changes to the Workout app will include an enhanced workout summary and the introduction of a metric called Running Power.
Some changes are coming to the Health app in iOS 16 and watchOS 9, including a Medications section that will help you keep track and monitor your medications. You'll be able to log them directly from Reminders, and from your wrist.
Finally, there are some decent updates coming to sleep tracking on the Apple Watch with watchOS 9. The software will bring REM, Core and Deep sleep details to the Apple Watch, as well as when you were awake, offering a graph like Fitbit devices offer.
You'll also be able to track your sleep over time with comparison charts in the Health app on your iPhone, allowing you to see metrics like heart rate and respiratory rate.
As with all major software updates, there will be some new Watch Faces with watchOS 9. There are multiple faces including Metropolitan, Playtime and Astronomy. There's also a Lunar face that celebrates calendar timekeeping using phases of the moon with three different calendars: Chinese, Hebrew and Islamic.
More Watch faces will also support rich complications with watchOS 9 and the Portraits face is getting enhancements too, allowing you to put your dog or cat on it and use the editing mode to add a tint to the background layers of a photo.
On the Modular Compact, Modular and X‑Large faces, you'll also be able to customise your watch face with a range of colours and gradients.
Some changes are coming with watchOS 9 that will offer new fetaures for kids with Apple Watches that don't have an iPhone.
For example, they will have access to the Podcasts app, the Home app for controlling HomePod speakers and smart home accessories and they will also be able to access home keys and hotel keys in Wallet.
Apple Watch already offers some great accessibiity features but watchOS 9 will bring the option to double pinch to start a workout or take a photo.
There's also a feature called Apple Watch Mirroring that will stream your Apple Watch to your iPhone and allow you to fully control it using assistive features on iPhone like Switch Control and Voice Control.
Notifications on the Apple Watch are changing slightly with watchOS 9. When you're using your Watch, notifications will come through as banners. When your wrist is down, notifications will come through as full-screen.
The Calendar app on Apple Watch is also getting some new features with watchOS 9. You'll finally be able to create new events directly from your Watch and you'll be able to navigate to specific days and weeks more easily through the View Options menu.
New trainer call-outs are being added to Fitness+, so you'll see Intensity Metrics that are called out on screen, whether that's iPhone or a compatible TV that you've AirPlayed your workout to.
Trainers will also provide rowing, cycling and treadmill guidance with watchOS 9, such as strokes per minute for rowing and cadence for cycling.
WatchOS 9 rumoured features
Here are some of the features that have been rumoured for the next Apple Watch model, though remain unconfirmed by Apple despite the watchOS 9 preview.
Body temperature readings
Mark Gurman of Bloomberg has claimed there could be three Apple Watch models with a body temperature sensor. If so, expect watchOS 9 to have software features to enable this special new hardware.
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has suggested a glucose sensor might not appear on the Apple Watch for years to come, depsite rumours suggesting it could appear on the Series 8. Either way, if the next Apple Watch does have a glucose sensor, expect watchOS 9 to have software features that allow you to easily monitor when your blood sugar drops or spikes.
Car crash detection
The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple is thought to be developing a new feature for the iPhone and Apple Watch that can tell if you've been in a car accident and automatically dial emergency services.