Seven things you need to know about watchOS 7

Or should that be washOS?

Sleep tracking, a reminder you’re washing your hands, and a rave button in workouts – features in watchOS 7 for the Apple Watch are an eclectic bunch. Watch face sharing, language translation and cycle directions added to Maps are also coming to Apple’s wearable – and the world’s most popular watch – plus privacy takes centre stage.

“We’re energised by the positive impact Apple Watch is having on our customers and are excited to deliver meaningful new tools that support their health, fitness, and wellness,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, during its WWDC keynote. Let's hope so, Jeff.

The operating system update should land some time in September. In the meantime here's the rub.

Wash OS: Automatic handwashing detection

Your Apple Watch isn’t going to start playing ‘God Save the Queen’, but in a nod to combating the spread of Covid-19, and germs in general, it will use its motion sensors, microphone, and on-device machine learning to automatically detect handwashing motions and sounds.

It then initiates a 20-second countdown timer, and if the user finishes early, they will be prompted to keep washing. It’ll even remind you to wash your mucky mitts when you get home.

The Health app on iPhone will show the frequency and duration of handwashing, as well as information on the importance of handwashing.

Apple says sounds used to detect handwashing are not automatically recorded or saved by the Health app or Apple Watch, presumably in a bid to save its programmers from suffering continuous strains of the national anthem.

Rave OS: Workout types and fitness app

Workout is one of the most popular apps on Apple Watch, and watchOS 7 brings four new workout types supported by heart rate and custom-built motion algorithms: Core Training, Dance, Functional Strength Training, and Cooldown.

To correctly capture calorie exertion for Dance, Apple Watch uses advanced sensor fusion, combining data from the heart rate sensor and inputs from the accelerometer and gyroscope, that’s to measure the different body-to-arm motions typical with dance.

Apple says this was tested with ‘four of the most popular dance styles for exercise’: Bollywood, cardio dance, hip-hop, and Latin. Flossing did not make the cut.

The redesigned Activity app on iPhone, now called Fitness, provides a streamlined view of data including daily Activity, Workouts, Awards, and Activity Trends on one tab, and Activity Sharing and Activity Competitions on another.

Face OS: Sharing watch faces

Apple believes faces are central to the watch experience, providing customers with valuable information at a glance and the ability to personalise their Apple Watch. watchOS 7 offers new ways to discover and share unique combinations to completely configure the watch face to suit any activity or lifestyle, from the new parent to the surfing aficionado, tennis player, or photographer.

Customisable and personalised faces, inclusive of complications, can be shared through Messages or Mail, and discovered through the App Store or even from links through websites and social media channels.

Latest face examples include Chronograph Pro with a tachymeter to calculate speed based on time travelled over a fixed distance, a Photos face with filters, and an X-Large face now has an option to add a rich complication.

Sleep OS: Sleep tracking

Apple Watch finally introduces sleep tracking, by providing tools to help users get the desired amount of sleep, get to bed on time, and create a pre-bedtime routine to meet their sleep goals.

Through the detection of micro-movements from the watch’s accelerometer, which signals respiration during sleep, Apple Watch now captures when the wearer is sleeping and how much sleep they get each night.

In the morning, the wearer will see a visualisation of their previous night’s sleep, including periods of wake and sleep. They will also see a chart showing their weekly sleep trend.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, a bedtime routine helps the body prepare for sleep (er, thanks). To support this, Wind Down allows Apple Watch and iPhone users to create a customised routine before bed, including setting up a specific scene in the Home app, listening to a soothing soundscape, or using a favourite meditation app.

In Sleep Mode, Apple Watch turns on Do Not Disturb and automatically darkens the screen overnight. To help users wake up, Apple Watch offers a silent haptic alarm or gentle sounds, while the wake-up screen shows the current battery level.

Depending on personal charging behaviour, if the battery is too low within an hour of bedtime, Apple Watch will remind users to charge it ahead of sleep. Sleep data is said to be encrypted on device or in iCloud with iCloud sync.

Hear OS: Noise app updates

Following the introduction of the Noise app in watchOS 6 that measures ambient sound levels and duration of exposure, watchOS 7 adds further support for hearing health with headphone audio notifications.

Usres can now understand how loudly they are listening to media through their headphones using their iPhone, iPod touch, or Apple Watch, and when these levels may impact hearing over time.

When total listening with headphones has reached 100% of the safe weekly listening amount, Apple Watch provides a notification to the wearer.

This amount is based on World Health Organisation recommendations that, for instance, a person can be exposed to 80 decibels for about 40 hours per week without an impact to hearing abilities.

Map OS: Cycling and translations

Cycling directions are soon to be available right on the wrist. Maps can direct when to dismount and walk the bike, or take the stairs to save time. The wearer can choose a route that avoids steep hills, gets to the destination the quickest, or takes the most direct path.

Siri will also translate languages. Dictation is handled on device with Apple Neural Engine, and Apple Watch now supports Announce Messages with Siri. The Shortcuts app is also now available on Apple Watch and can be accessed as a complication.