Apple hasn’t yet released the next-gen Apple Watch Series 7, but the latest annual software upgrade for Apple Watches just landed. The watchOS 8 update, which is available to install right now for Apple Watch Series 3 and later, brings some cool new features that make your old Apple Watch feel instantly upgraded. Here’s everything you should check out first.
The Apple Watch Breathe app has gone—or rather, has been rebranded as Mindfulness, reflecting its more holistic approach to your mental health. The breathing routines have expanded, and they’ve been joined by a new reflection feature to help you take time to think more deliberately during the day. Fitness+ subscribers get guided meditations too.
With watchOS 8, you can now set a portrait photo of a person who means a lot to you as the main watch face on your wearable—just so there’s no chance of you forgetting what they look like. You set this new portrait watch face just like you do any other, from the Face Gallery tab in the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. Then choose the portrait photo you want to display.
Messages gets some substantial improvements this time around, with the digital crown now acting as a way of shifting the text cursor for easier editing, and the same text entry area used to input scribbles, emojis and GIFs. The refreshed interface should mean you’re able to compose more messages on the watch itself, and in a shorter space of time.
Never let it be said that Apple doesn’t know how to innovate, because with the watchOS 8 update installed you can at last set multiple timers to run alongside each other. As always, you can set them through the Timers app on your watch, or with a “Hey Siri” voice command, and you can give each specific timer a label to make them easier to identify.
With watchOS 8, you’ve got two new apps to locate other gadgets: Find Items (which looks for AirTags and other similar trackers) and Find Devices (which looks for connected Apple hardware like iPhones, iPads and Macs). There’s the option to get alerts when your Apple Watch is separated from other devices, such as your iPhone, if you want to enable it.
If you open up the Weather app after installing watchOS 8, you’ll see there are some improvements. There’s support for severe weather notifications, alerts for precipitation happening in the next hour, and some updated weather complications to play around with on your watch face, too. As before, scroll down to see all of the data available to you.
The Home app for the Apple Watch has been redesigned and improved with the arrival of watchOS 8. You’ve now got more control over the different HomeKit devices that are connected across Apple’s smart home platform, and you can even look at the feeds from compatible smart video cameras right on the watch without turning to your iPhone.
The capabilities of the Apple Watch Wallet app are enhanced with the arrival of watchOS 8. There’s ultra-wideband support for digital car keys, the ability to unlock and start compatible cars with the wearable, and home and hotel keys can be added digitally as well. In some states, you can add your driver’s license or state ID to the Wallet app, too, although this probably a little easier to use on your iPhone.
With watchOS 8 installed, Apple Watches are able to track respiratory rate (the number of breaths per minute) while you sleep, along with other data like heart rate. Dig into your sleep data on the Apple Watch or check it through the Health app on your connected iPhone to see the measurements that have been recorded over time.
The Apple Watch is now more accurately able to track two workout types: Tai Chi and Pilates. You can find them in the Workout app if you scroll down, and Apple says both are “supported by powerful, validated, custom-built heart rate and motion algorithms to provide users with accurate calorie metrics” while tracking is active.
Like iPhones, iPads, and Macs, the Apple Watch supports the new Focus profiles that let you set custom Do Not Disturb rules for different scenarios (the office, the gym, the car, and so on). They can be really useful if you take the time to set them up properly, and the easiest way to do that is to open up Settings on your connected iPhone and choose Focus.