Saturday, July 24, 2021
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watchOS 8: Everything you want to know about the new Apple Watch OS


Table of contents

  1. watchOS 8: A summary
  2. When will watchOS 8 be released?
  3. How to install watchOS 8
  4. These Apple Watches will receive watchOS 8
  5. These are the new watchOS 8 features
  6. Summary

watchOS 8: A summary

  • watchOS 8 is most likely to arrive in September 2021 as a free update for a range of Apple Watches
  • Currently, developers can already access watchOS 8 in an early beta version. Apple is also expected to make a beta version available to the public in June
  • watchOS 8 highlights include:
    • Improved Wallet access features
    • New workout types
    • Sleep breathing tracking
    • A new mindfulness app
    • New ways to communicate such as doodling, editing dictated messages, or adding emojis to a message

watchOS 8: Release Date

watchOS 8 was unveiled by Apple at WWDC21. While there is no exact date set for the official launch of watchOS 8 yet, it has been officially announced for an autumn release. However, one can safely assume that it will probably happen in September 2021.

Developer version is already available

Currently, there is already a full version of watchOS 8 available for developers to try out. In order to install the developer version, however, one will require a developer account from Apple.

App developers for the Apple Watch, as well as for other Apple products, can create an account at developer.apple.com for $99 annually in order to obtain access to numerous Apple software. We’ve pieced together an explanation for you as a developer to install watchOS 8 right now.

Beta version of watchOS 8 expected in July

For those who are not members of the Apple Developer Program, but are still adamant about installing watchOS 8 ahead of other people: You can sign up as a beta tester at Apple.

Signing up is easy: Go to beta.apple.com and follow the registration process. Currently, you can already pre-register using your Apple ID. Apple will then inform you as soon as the beta version of watchOS 8 is available.

watchOS 8: How to install the update

The update will not be available in an official version until this September. Once it’s available, all owners of an Apple Watch will receive a notification in the Watch app of the iPhone – just as usual. The installation process will begin simply by clicking on the status message for the update.

If you do not want to wait until September and want the new software on your Apple Watch today, you can install the beta version of the operating system – and with it, all the risks that an early software version carries. To install a developer beta or beta version of watchOS 8, you will first need to install a certificate on your iPhone. After rebooting the iPhone, you should then be able to view the update.

For those who want to know a little more: We’ve written a guide on how to install watchOS 8 beta right now.

watchOS 8: These Apple Watches will receive the update

These are the Apple Watches that will receive the new watchOS 8 update:

  • Apple Watch Series 3
  • Apple Watch Series 4
  • Apple Watch Series 5
  • Apple Watch SE
  • Apple Watch Series 6

watchOS 8: What new features does it have?

Probably the most exciting question is: What’s new with the upcoming software release? While there aren’t any big changes this year, Apple will be introducing plenty of new features to the Apple Watch.

I myself have been using watchOS 8 for about a week now. Even if there are plenty of new features for the Apple Watch, most of them are not too obvious. Rather, you will most probably discover these new features on a gradual basis – or perhaps even wonder whether these features were there all along. 

Either way, there’s a lot going on with the Apple Watch with watchOS 8, and we’ve rounded up the most important features for you here:

Two new workout types on the Watch

With the watchOS 8 update, there are two new workout types available on your Apple Watch. Tai Chi and Pilates are exercises that involve slower movements to keep you going.

apple watch tai chi
Yes, Daniel-san! There’s now something for those who like to move slower while keeping fit / © NextPit

According to its own statement, Apple has therefore worked out new heart rate and movement algorithms that cater for more accurate measurements.

New app for better self-mindfulness

The Breathe app has been around since watchOS 3 and has been providing a meditative ambience for its users ever since then. Apple has improved the app and added a “reflection” portion to it.

Here, the Apple Watch will ask you a question at certain intervals, which is then supposed to usher you into a positive state of mind. The name of the app will also see a change, where it will be known as Mindfulness after the release.

We took a closer look at the app and here’s a somewhat detailed description of Mindfulness on watchOS 8 for you.

Sleep breath rate measurement is now part of sleep tracking

Sleep tracking previously registered movement during sleep only, enabling it to draw conclusions about the quality of your sleep along with your heart rate. In the future, the Apple Watch on watchOS 8 will now also measure your breathing rate.

iphone health
At some point, I seem to have had a bit of a bad dream: My heart rate goes to 60 beats per minute and my breathing became noticeably faster. But I’ve had calmer dreams too, as you can see. / © NextPit

You can then view the compiled data on the Health app. The app will show you plenty of different data, and most recently, the average number of breaths per minute during the night. By the way, in order to be able to measure this, the Apple Watch will rely on the smartwatch’s accelerometer.

Personally, I’m currently still lacking context as to what these values mean. Perhaps here it is our turn to find out what these numbers mean and how we can optimize them if required.

Changes in Messages and Contacts should make interaction easier

The Messages and Contacts apps will also receive significant changes. More importantly, they’re actual improvements this time around. If you’ve ever used the Apple Watch to compose a message, like iMessage or SMS, you would know that the dictation feature usually works very well.

watchos 8 messages
With the new Messages app in watchOS 8, you can now decide from a menu whether you want to dictate, use instant message suggestions, or doodle. The language for doodling can also be set. Dictated text can now also be corrected. There is a space bar as well as a button to delete text. (see middle picture) / © NextPit

Sometimes, however, you’d much rather just reply in brief to a particular message. There is indeed a list of pre-selected short messages to help you with that, but these are not always relevant. If you wanted to scribble something prior to watchOS 8, you had to switch the view. On the Apple Watch, the new user interface combines doodling, dictation, and emojis in one unified view.

But what I personally found to be more important is the fact that dictated messages can FINALLY be edited. Personally, I use the dictation function very often – and it was often very annoying when I misspoke. When that happened, I had to either start from the very beginning or live with the error in the text. All of this is now a thing of the past.

Messages on the Apple Watch can be typed using a connected iPhone

This function should not be used too often – probably one would only use it when connected directly to the iPhone. However, this function which I discovered by chance, proved to be very practical:

If you began a message on the Apple Watch, the connected iPhone will also show you a direct typing field on the home screen. This can then be used to type text on the iPhone, which is then transferred directly over to the Apple Watch.

The Contacts app is also brand new on Apple Watch

Previously, contacts were not searchable or editable directly on the Apple Watch. With watchOS 8, contacts can not only be searched but also added or edited.

However, editing is not really that easy. If you simply want to add a contact while you’re on the go, however, it’s certainly good enough.

Wallet becomes more flexible

Unfortunately, due to a lack of compatible vehicles, I was unable to test this option out. But what Apple informed me was this: it is possible to use the new Wallet on the Apple Watch with your vehicle. This sounds pretty darn cool! Thanks to Ultra Wide Band – or UWB for short (more on that in the linked article), the watch can be used as a digital car key. This way, the car can be unlocked from a distance with the Watch, before you get into the driver’s seat and start it.

From this autumn onward, apartment, office and hotel keys can also be added to the Wallet. For example, the Hilton Group wants to equip its hotels with a compatible system, allowing you to obtain the hotel key directly on your wrist in advance.

In the USA, driver’s licenses and ID cards can also be stored securely and encrypted in the Wallet itself. These are also accepted as legal certification by US security authorities at airports. As you can see, this is a wonderful example of tech being properly implemented leading to far-reaching changes. Who would have dared to dream of such possibilities in the past?

Home app under watchOS 8 gets redesigned

Accessories and scenes can also be accessed and controlled more quickly. With watchOS 7, the Home app listed devices that can be accessed.

watchos 8 home app
Home on watchOS 8 is easier to use. You can quickly access individual devices and scenes (left), as well as individual rooms (right) / © NextPit

In the new version, you can quickly access individual devices, scene, and rooms to control the devices.

Focus is also integrated into watchOS 8

One of the best features in macOS Monterey, iPadOS 15, iOS 15, and watchOS 8 is, in my opinion, the Focus option.

Different modes let you define what kind of distractions you want to enable at your whim and fancy. When a focus is enabled, you will only get notifications – and calls, for that matter – from people or apps that you’ve explicitly allowed.

While we’ll write a separate article on this topic to explain how to make the most of Focus options, options for designating focus on the Apple Watch will, of course, be limited. No matter which connected Apple device you enable focus from, it will automatically be enabled to other devices. This means you can also set a focus on the Apple Watch, which will then apply across the board on your Mac, iPad, or iPhone.

Portraits Watch face: Now I can look at myself, and others, of course!

Fun fact: I was unaware that the photo dial is the most popular setting as far as watch faces go. Hence, Apple responded with a new option to cater to its popularity: portrait photos taken with the iPhone can be enhanced by offering an overlay effect. In addition, the app can recognize faces in photos while enlarging these sections.

I also created such a watch face once – and I’m thrilled. Now I can look at myself all the time and don’t even need further selfies at all. Do I?

First conclusion

watchOS 8 certainly doesn’t mark a new era for the Apple Watch. But it does bring us a lot of new features that will be extremely useful, especially for those of us who also use other Apple devices. Apple continues to make its products more connected and better – and it’s a real pleasure to use them because of it.



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