Apple previewed watchOS 8 with new features that make its wearable operating system “even more essential” for users to stay healthy, active, and connected. Updates to the Wallet and Home apps extend Apple Watch as an increasingly useful tool for convenient access across the car and places users live, work, and visit. A reimagined Breathe app and new Tai Chi and Pilates workout types help users lead a fit and healthy life and support mental well-being, while a new Portraits watch face and enhancements to Messages and the Photos app make staying connected to loved ones even easier.
New health features
Here are the new or updated healthcare features:
Support for new Workout Types
watchOS 8 introduces two new popular workout types that are beneficial for both physical fitness and mindful movement: Tai Chi and Pilates. These new workout types are supported by powerful, validated custom-built heart rate and motion algorithms to provide users with accurate metrics.
A New Approach to Mindfulness
In watchOS 8, the Breathe app becomes the Mindfulness app, featuring an enhanced Breathe experience, plus a new session type, Reflect. Reflect offers a mindful intention to focus on for as little as one minute that can be done anywhere and at any time. Each Reflect session welcomes the user with a unique, thoughtful notion to consider that invites a positive frame of mind. For example, the user may see something like “Recall a time recently when you felt a sense of calm. Bring that feeling into this moment,” or “Reflect on one thing you’re grateful for and think about why you appreciate it so much.” Both the Breathe and Reflect experiences also offer tips to help users get more from each session and feature beautiful new animations.
Sleeping Respiratory Rate
Apple Watch already helps users meet their sleep goals by establishing a pre-bedtime routine, and tracks metrics like time asleep, heart rate, and blood oxygen. watchOS 8 gives users even more insight into their overall wellness by tracking sleeping respiratory rate, which is the number of breaths per minute. To do this, Apple Watch uses the built-in accelerometer to measure respiratory rate while sleeping, and this information can be viewed, along with trends over time, in the Health app on iPhone. This metric is also available for developers to use with permission through HealthKit.
Apple Fitness+ expanded
There are now Picture in Picture support and new filtering options, and users can stop and resume an in-progress workout on any device. Later this month, Fitness+ will introduce a new series of workouts featuring Jeanette Jenkins, one of the most sought-after fitness experts, and a new Artist Spotlight Series with workouts featuring entire playlists from Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, and Alicia Keys.
What else is new?
The new version of Apple’s platform also includes other enhancements, such as:
- More Access with Wallet – Ultra Wideband support now arrives for digital car keys on Apple Watch Series 6. Apple Watch wearers can securely unlock their car from a distance and start it from the driver’s seat. This fall, users can also add keys for their home, office, and hotel to Wallet, and tap their Apple Watch to unlock. Also later this year, beginning with participating states in the US, users will be able to add their driver’s license or state ID to Wallet. Select TSA checkpoints will be the first place users can begin using their digital ID.
- Redesigned Home App – users with a HomeKit-enabled camera can view who is at the door directly on their wrist. Apple Watch users can also tap Intercom to quickly broadcast a message throughout the home or to individual rooms via HomePod, HomePod mini, or other personal devices.
- Portraits Watch Face and Photos – brings to life portrait photos shot on iPhone with a multilayered effect, intelligently recognizing faces in photos and cropping in to highlight the subject. The Photos app is also redesigned, offering new ways to view and navigate collections, Memories and Featured Photos now sync to Apple Watch, and photos can be shared through Messages and Mail with the new Share Sheet.
- Messages and Contacts – isers can combine the use of Scribble, dictation, and emoji all within the same message, and for dictated messages, they have the option to edit the presented text. watchOS 8 also brings the Contacts app to Apple Watch, providing a simple way for users to browse, add, and edit contacts, and share contacts directly from the app.
- Focus – Apple Watch will automatically align with any Focus set on iOS, so that notifications from people and apps are filtered based on what a user is currently doing.
On the record
“Apple Watch is the most loved watch in the world, keeping users healthy, active, and connected,” said Kevin Lynch, Apple’s vice president of Technology. “With watchOS 8, we’re bringing more convenient access to places users live, work, and visit with significant updates to Home and Wallet, expanding support for both physical and mental well-being, and enabling richer personal connections with the new Portraits face and updates to Messages.”
The developer beta of watchOS 8 is already available to Apple Developer Program members at developer.apple.com. A public beta will be available to watchOS users next month at beta.apple.com. watchOS 8 will be available this fall as a free software update for Apple Watch Series 3 or later paired with iPhone 6s or later, running iOS 15. Some features may not be available in all regions or all languages, or on all devices.