Apple today announced the latest version of its smartwatch platform, watchOS 9. Along with the usual updates like new watch faces and fitness features, it will also introduce expanded running metrics and medication reminders. The new platform will be available to developers first, with a public beta arriving next month. The final public release is slated for this fall when the new Apple Watch Series 8 arrives.
As always, watchOS 9 will feature new watch faces. They include a new astronomy face, a lunar face, a “Playtime face” and a new font screen called Metropolitan. It also adds new rich complications and active apps can be pinned for quick access. There’s also a new Siri UI. Users can add more customization to watch faces, such as changing the background color of certain watch faces. As with iOS 16, Apple Watch owners can also customize the screen they see during specific focus modes.
Apple is also adding new running metrics, such as running form, stride length, ground contact time and heart rate zones, which is good news if you like to train by intensity. The watch will track cardiac recovery after walking, running, and outdoor hiking workouts. You will be able to receive new alerts for pace, power, heart rate and cadence. Apple said runners will also be able to compete against personal bests and frequently used routes. Runners can create time goals for a specific distance.
Another feature seems to be aimed at triathletes, as it will allow you to quickly switch between cycling, swimming and running. Speaking of swimming, watchOS 9 introduces kickboard detection so the watch can track swims in which a kickboard is used. He will also get a SWOLF score to measure the effectiveness of the strokes.
Users can now use the digital crown to switch between training views. You can also now create custom workouts to have a more structured session. As for Fitness Plus updates, Apple Watch users will be able to see on-screen guidance for certain metrics. This includes the intensity of cardio workouts like HIIT, cycling, rowing, and the treadmill. Rowing will also get strokes per minute, while cycling will see revolutions per minute. Walkers and runners will be able to see the slope. Finally, Fitness Plus subscribers who don’t have Apple TV can now see their metrics onscreen via AirPlay streaming.
The watchOS 9 app now supports medication reminders, which will be linked to the Health app and allow users to create a “medication list” as well as custom schedules. You can also simply scan the drugs to add them. It will also help users determine if any of the medications they are taking will interact with each other. For now, the interactions feature is limited to US users. You will also be able to view health data that you may share with others.
There is also a hodgepodge of other updates. Family Setup now gives kids access to the Home app, so they can control HomePod speakers and other smart home devices. This extends to house and hotel keys. Notifications have been tweaked to be less disruptive, along with “thin banners” when actively using the watch. For accessibility, the company is introducing Apple Watch Mirroring, which will allow people with physical and motor disabilities to control their Apple Watch remotely.
watchOS 9 will be compatible with Series 4 or later, which means it’s curtains for Series 3. That’s not terribly surprising. Series 3 debuted in 2017, and users have struggled to update to new versions of watchOS for the past few years. Along with rumors that Apple will release three new Apple Watch models later this year, it makes sense to retire the five-year-old device now that its hardware can’t support the software.