What’s new in WatchOS 8

Apple has provided a preview of its upcoming WatchOS 8 operating system for Apple smartwatches.

The update, which is set to be rolled out between September and November 2021, includes additional features for the Home and Wallet apps, expanding support for physical and mental well-being, a new Portraits watch face, and updates to Messages.

The latter includes new tools which allow users to combine the use of Scribble, dictation, and emoji in the same message. For dictated messages, they also have the option to edit the presented text.

“To easily add even more expression to a message, users can simply enter a word or phrase and select from hundreds of trending GIFs,” Apple said.

The Contacts app will also be added to Apple Watches, offering an easy way for users to browse, edit, and share contacts directly on their wrist.

Meanwhile, the popular Portraits watch face has been enhanced with an immersive, multilayered effect added to photos taken on iPhone, which can intelligently recognise faces and crop photos to highlight the subject.

The redesigned photos apps will also allow users to view and navigate collections in new ways.

Memories and Featured Photos will now sync to the Apple Watch, and photos can be shared through Messages and Mail with the new Share Sheet.

Health monitoring and exercise

WatchOS 8 will also come with a number of improvements in terms of health and training features.

Firstly, two new new workout types Tai Chi and Pilates — have been added.

Apple said these will be supported by powerful, validated custom-built heart rate and motion algorithms to provide users with accurate metrics.

The Breathe app has also been renamed to the Mindfulness app, with an enhanced Breathe experience, plus a new session type, Reflect.

“Each Reflect session welcomes the user with a unique, thoughtful notion to consider that invites a positive frame of mind,” Apple stated.

In addition, Watch OS 8 enables tracking of sleeping respiratory rate, which is the number of breaths per minute, using the built-in accelerometer to measure respiratory rate while sleeping.

Safety and convenience

WatchOS brings a number of features that aim to make everyday life safer and more convenient.

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,” Apple said.

Support for Ultra Wideband communication through digital car keys on the Apple Watch Series 6 will also be added in the update, allowing users to securely unlock their car from a distance and start it from the driver’s seat.

This feature is offered on most new BMW models.

Additional features

In addition to the updates noted above, Apple said Watch OS 8 will ship with a number of other features, including:

  • Multiple timers which can be given a specific label using Siri – such as “Laundry Timer” or “Cooking Timer”.
  • Always-On Display Support for more apps, including Maps, Mindfulness, Now Playing, Phone, Podcasts, Stopwatch, Timers, Voice Memos, and others.
  • AssistiveTouch enables one-arm usage of Apple Watch by sensing simple hand gestures to interact without touching the display. Using the built-in motion sensors, users can answer incoming calls, control an onscreen motion pointer, and surface an action menu that can access Notification Centre, Control Centre, and more.
  • New Find Items app on Apple Watch helps users locate tagged items using the Find My network, and a new Find Devices app helps users locate lost Apple devices that are signed in with the same Apple ID.
  • Redesigned Music app enables users to share songs, albums, and playlists through Messages and Mail, and enjoy music and radio in the same app.
  • Severe Weather notifications added to the weather app, displaying government alerts about certain severe weather events.
  • Apple Fitness+ gets picture in picture support and new filtering options, and users can stop and resume an in-progress workout on any device.


Now read: iOS 15 announced – all the new features

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What’s new in WatchOS 8