WWDC 2021 is here, and so is the next version of watchOS. Now in its eight generation, the software will run on all recent versions of the Apple Watch.
watchOS 8 is unlikely to change the way you use your Apple Watch, but there are a handful of new features that could prove useful. Without further ado, here are the six most interesting.
Redesigned photos experience
Apple has updated the Photos app in watchOS 8. Images are now arranged in an iPhone-style mosaic layout, allowing you to easily select one and share it via Messages or Mail. A daily hit of nostalgia can be delivered via ‘On This Day’, while portrait mode photos from the iPhone now have a dedicated selection of watch faces.
The Apple Watch already has an extensive library of supported workouts, but watchOS 8 will add to that lineup. Pilates and the martial art Tai Chi will now be available directly from your wrist.
New respiratory rate metric
The extensive range of health-tracking tools is also being expanded in watchOS 8. A new respiratory rate metric can measure how many breaths you take each minute while sleeping, with data then recorded in the Health app. Respiratory rate usually remains relatively consistent, so any variation here could be an indicator of an issue.
Smart home integration
Apple’s range of supported smart home devices also now have a deeper integration with the Apple Watch. This allows you to view the feed from a video doorbell directly on the watch, as well as the ability to locate AirTags and support for Car Key.
New Mindfulness app
The Mindfulness app is technically an extension of the previous Breathe app, but adds new functionality to the Apple Watch. It features new animations and a ‘Reflect’ mode, which prompts you to look back on something you enjoy. Apple used the example ‘Think about something you love to do and why it brings you joy’, but presumably there are plenty more.
New text input options
Composing messages has never felt seamless on the Apple Watch, but the company is attempting to address that in watchOS 8. Dictation, scribble and emojis will now all be available from the same screen, with the digital crown used to quickly move the cursor. GIF support is also coming to the Apple Watch for the first time.
watchOS 8 is expected to be compatible on all recent Apple Watches, up to and including the Series 3. A public beta will be available in July, ahead of official rollout in the autumn.