With so many of Apple’s devices essentially being touchscreens dependent on software, the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference is when we really get to see all the new features and functionality coming to its hardware, including the Apple Watch and the new watchOS 9.
Many of the software updates coming to Apple’s popular wearable are designed to take better advantage of the larger screens introduced in recent models, but they also include improvements to the Apple Watch’s already impressive health and fitness tracking capabilities.
The most obvious reason to upgrade to the latest version of watchOS year after year is the introduction of new watch faces to breath new life into your wearable, given they can still only come from Apple itself. For watchOS 9, four new watch faces are enroute. These have been redesigned to better fill out the device’s larger screen, including an astronomy face, a lunar calendar face, and one that promises to celebrate the typography of watch faces and that even allows users to adjust the size of fonts interactively by simply rotating the digital crown.
It didn’t take long for Apple to realize that fitness tracking would be the Apple Watch’s bread and butter, even if it was the killer app for wearables since their earliest debut. For watchOS 9, the Apple Watch will leverage its accelerometer and gyroscope to track a runner’s form, stride length, and ground contact time, and it introduces the ability to specify heart rate zones, as well as distance and time intervals, with vibrating haptic feedback and voice alerts let users know they’ve hit a target and need to switch things up.
The Apple Watch’s Fitness app, which has long been exclusively available only on the wearable, is also finally coming to iOS and the iPhone, taking advantage of the smartphone’s motion-sensing tech to track metrics and performance (as long as an athlete is wearing or carrying the device on their person).
With watchOS 8 came the ability for users to choose to wear their device overnight to track their breathing rate during slumber and keep tabs on whether their average night’s sleep was increasing or decreasing week to week. With watchOS 9 comes the added ability for the Apple Watch to detect and measure the different stages of sleep, including REM, core, deep sleep, and even when someone is awake.
If there was any doubt Apple was all-in when it comes to treating the Apple Watch as a legitimate medical device, watchOS 9 will also introduce medication tracking. Users can physically scan the label of a drug bottle using their iPhone’s camera, and it will be added and tracked through the iPhone Health app, with the Apple Watch providing reminders of when to take medications (including logging when you do), and possible conflicts between different types of meds you may be currently taking. You’ll also be able to share medication info with your loved ones.
Apple Watch users who’ve opted for a cellular connected model have even less reasons to reach for their iPhone or computer as the Calendar app in watchOS 9 is being updated with the ability to create new events and appointments directly on the watch, and a new Week view makes it easier to see what meetings or other responsibilities sit between you and a relaxing weekend.