watchOS 8 brings new health and messaging features to the Apple Watch this year
On Monday, Apple detailed its plans for watchOS 8, the next major software update for the Apple Watch. The operating system will introduce improved texting and photo sharing, new HomeKit integrations, and some smaller updates to health and fitness features.
The Apple Watch’s Breathe app has been replaced by Mindfulness, which incorporates Breathe and Reflect activities. Breathing gets new animations while Reflect sends mindfulness prompts like, “bring to mind a relationship you cherish and think about it,” and an accompanying calming animation you can focus on as you reflect. There will also be a few new pointers in the app to help you focus and relax. You’ll be able to set if or when you get such prompts throughout the day.
In Fitness, Apple is adding two new workouts: Tai Chi and Pilates. Apple Fitness+ gets another set of workouts focused on HIIT (high-intensity interval training); the service will also include Artist Spotlights, which suggests music to play during your workouts. watchOS8 will also provide respiratory-rate tracking for sleep, but not for workouts.
A new watch face option for portrait pictures lets you zoom in on the subject in a sort of parallax effect. A mosaic layout in the Apple Watch’s Photos app allows you to more easily browse photos on your wrist. From there, you can tap to send photos in a text or email. Text selection and a cursor have also been added; you can replace or edit text, using the crown to move the cursor and your finger to tap and select. Emojis are also now more easily accessible.
Apple’s Wallet app will see some upgrades too, which means a number of new integrations for ID and key access. Among them will be the already supported Car Keys function on compatible autos, but with broader support for more features like unlocking the trunk, adjusting climate, or other proximity-based actions. This is enabled by utilizing the UWB chip in the Apple Watch and won’t require any hardware upgrades for existing Car Key-compatible cars, only software updates from the auto manufacturer. Support for key cards to buildings, hotel rooms, and resorts is also on its way to partnered companies like Disney and Grand Hyatt. You’ll even be able to store your driver’s license (not a picture, just the relevant information securely stored and encrypted on the Watch) to be read by TSA in supported states. Details on which states will support this are forthcoming.
HomeKit’s integration has also been revamped with a new control center giving easy access to an intercom function, lights, temperature, and other HomeKit-enabled devices’ quick functions. It can also now send a notification to your Apple Watch when a package arrives or let you see, hear, and talk to who’s at your door when the doorbell rings.
Apple’s also adding severe weather alerts, next hour precipitation notifications, Find Me integration to track Air Tags, support for multiple simultaneous timers (great for cooking, and supported by Siri), a new Tips app, Contacts app, and Radio support within the Music app.
All of these new functions will be compatible with Apple Watches Series 3 and up, save for the Portrait watch face which will not be available on Apple Watch Series 3. watchOS 8 beta will be available starting in July, while the final release hits supported Apple Watch devices this fall.