The dust has settled after Apple’s WWDC 2022 event, and there’s all sorts to unpack. From a new, more powerful MacBook Air, to a fresh MacBook Pro 13in, macOS Ventura, iOS16 and more, there’s plenty for Apple fans to get excited about.
While there’s no Apple Watch Series 8 on that list (we expect to see it land in September), we were still treated to a look at watchOS 9, and there’s quite a few new features arriving that will grace your existing Apple Watch with some fancy new tricks. The truly eager can get in on the action early with the public beta, while everyone willing to wait can find out what’s new below.
Without further ado, here are the best new features in Apple watchOS 9:
Apple watchOS 9: which Apple Watches are compatible?
The first thing to note, before we dive into the new features, is that there’s no support for the aging Apple Watch Series 3 — watchOS 9 will only be compatible from the Series 4 onwards.
Given that the Series 3 launched in 2017, it’s somewhat understandable that the older hardware can’t keep up with all the bells and whistles. If you’re currently rocking a Series 3 and want the new features, it looks like it’s time for an upgrade. If you can, we’d suggest waiting till the launch of the new Apple Watch Series 8 in September, for maximum future proofing.
Apple watchOS 9: new watch faces
As expected, watchOS 9 will introduce a selection of new watch faces which you can personalise. These include a new astronomy face, a rather adorable playtime face, a lunar face, and a new typeface screen called Metropolitan which changes as you rotate the Digital Crown. Classic watch faces have also been updated to show off new enhanced depth effects.
Apple watchOS 9: Fitness tracking
The Workout app sees one of the biggest upgrades to watchOS 9. For starters you’ve now got more detailed metrics for measuring your performance. Runners, for example, can track metrics like stride length, ground contact time, and vertical oscillation. These stats are shown in the Fitness app summary and in the Health app, letting runners track key trends and performance over time. We imagine it might come in particularly handy for those looking to change their running form too. But that’s not all.
Runners can also race against their own ghost times on previous routes, with the option to select their best or most recent results, while receiving alerts to let them know if they’re currently slower or faster. Elsewhere, swimmers also have a few new features, including the addition of kickboard detection as a new stroke type, and the ability to track their efficiency with a SWOLF score.
With watchOS 9, Fitness+ workouts also now show on-screen guidance in addition to trainer coaching to help users get the most out of workouts. Subscribers can view these and all their personal fitness metrics on compatible third-party TVs and devices.
Turning the Digital Crown will let you see different workout views, and additional stats include Heart Rate Zones to help monitor the intensity of a workout, while Custom Workouts let you set up work and rest intervals. There are also new alerts, including pace, power, heart rate, cadence and more, for helpful guidance during your sessions, while Cardio Recovery tracks cardiovascular health after walks and runs.
Finally, Apple Watch Mirroring lets users with physical and motor disabilities control their Apple Watch via their iPhones.
Apple watchOS 9: Sleep tracking
Catching up with other sleep tracking features from the likes of Garmin, watchOS 9 will let you track more sleep insights with a new Sleep Stages feature. Using your Watch’s built-in accelerometer and heart rate sensor, you’ll be able to see the different stages of sleep you’ve had on any given night. These stages include REM, Core, and Deep Sleep, and can be viewed in the Sleep app after you wake up.
Apple watchOS 9: Health and Medications
If you’ve got atrial fibrillation, there’s a new AFib History feature to see important stats, including an estimate of how frequently your heart’s shown signs of fibrillation. It’s been cleared by the FDA too, for peace of mind.
Another new feature in watchOS 9 is Medications — an app that can track your medications, vitamins and supplements by creating a list and setting up schedules and reminders, in addition to providing additional information in the Health app.
The Health app takes things one step further by tracking everything and alerting you if it sees any potentially harmful interactions between any of the medications you’re taking (if you’re in the US, at least). On other shores, you’re limited to simply creating schedules, and we’re not sure when or if the medication clashing feature will roll out to other countries.
Apple watchOS 9: miscellaneous
There’s a whole host of minor updates in watchOS 9. These include less interruptive notifications, Home support for Family Setup (letting others be invited to control Home accessories), and Quick Actions that let you do things like end calls or take photos with pinch gestures.
The revamped dock puts apps that are in use ahead of others, while the Reminders app lets you add or edit details like dates and times. Finally, the Calendar app lets you create new events directly on your watch.
Apple watchOS 9: release date
Keen users with a developer account could download the watchOS 9 developer beta right after Apple announced it, but everyone else had to wait until July for the public beta. It’s free, and doesn’t need any special account, but you do run the risk of unstable and buggy software.
We expect the official launch to be around September, when the new Apple Watch Series 8 is due to be announced, so stay tuned.