New watch faces, an enhanced Workout app, sleep stages, a first-of-its-kind AFib History feature, a redesigned Compass app, and an all-new Medications app are here
Apple today launched watchOS 9, which brings new features and enhanced experiences to the world’s leading wearable operating system. Apple Watch users now have more watch faces to choose from, with richer complications that provide more information and opportunity for personalisation. In the updated Workout app, advanced metrics, views, and training experiences inspired by high-performing athletes help users take their workouts to the next level. The Sleep app includes sleep stages, and for users diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AFib), the new FDA-cleared AFib History feature provides deeper insights into a user’s condition. The new Medications app makes it easy for users to conveniently and discreetly manage, understand, and track medications.
New and Expanded Watch Faces
watchOS 9 introduces four new faces: Lunar, which depicts the relationship between the Gregorian calendar and lunar calendar, used in many cultures such as Chinese, Hebrew, and Islamic; Playtime, a dynamic piece of art that’s unique to Apple Watch and created in collaboration with artist Joi Fulton; Metropolitan, a classic, type-driven watch face where the style changes as the Digital Crown is turned; and Astronomy, an original face that has been completely remastered and features a new star map and current cloud data.
The update brings enhanced and modernised complications to some of the most classic watch faces, such as Utility, Simple, and Activity Analog, along with background colour editing for Modular, Modular Compact, and X-Large for additional personalisation. The Portraits face showcases the depth effect on more photos, including cats, dogs, and landscapes, while Chinese scripts have been added as options for California and Typograph watch faces. For the first time, any Apple Watch user running watchOS 9 — even those without a Nike model — will be able to access all the Nike watch faces, including the fresh colours coming to the Bounce face.
Workout App Updates
The Workout app, one of the most popular apps on Apple Watch, has been updated to provide richer metrics for measuring performance, as well as new training experiences to help users reach their fitness goals. The familiar in-session display now uses the Digital Crown to rotate between easy-to-read Workout Views, so users can see important metrics for different training styles. Heart Rate Zones, utilising personalised Health data, can be used to monitor the intensity of a workout. For interval training, the Workout app introduces Custom Workouts, which can be used to create a structured workout that includes work and recovery intervals. New alerts, including pace, power, heart rate, and cadence, can be added to guide users throughout their workout.
For triathletes and duathletes, the Workout app now supports a new Multisport workout type that automatically switches between any sequence of swimming, biking, and running workouts, using motion sensors to recognise movement patterns. There is also a redesigned summary page in the Fitness app on iPhone that offers additional details with interactive charts for more precise analysis of all workouts.
Updates for Runners
Apple Watch is already a powerful tool for runners, and watchOS 9 brings more data and features to help track how efficiently users run. New running form metrics, including Stride Length, Ground Contact Time, and Vertical Oscillation, can all be added as metrics on Workout Views. These metrics appear in the Fitness app summary and in the Health app, where users can see trends over time and learn from patterns.
A new Pacer experience lets users choose a distance and goal for the time in which they want to complete a run, and calculates the pace required to achieve the goal. During the workout, they can follow the pace alerts and metrics provided. Coming later this year, Race Route enables users to race against their best or last result on frequently completed routes, and receive in-session pacing guidance. A new Track running experience, coming later this year to the US, automatically detects that users are at a running track, and uses Apple Maps data along with GPS to provide the ultimate pace and distance metrics for runners.
Kickboard has been added as a new stroke type for Pool Swim workouts, using sensor fusion on Apple Watch to automatically detect when users are swimming with a kickboard and classify the stroke type in the workout summary along with distance swam. Swimmers can now track their efficiency with a SWOLF score — a stroke count combined with the time, in seconds, it takes to swim one length of the pool. Users can view their SWOLF average for each set in the workout summary.
Redesigned Compass App
A completely redesigned Compass app provides more in-depth information and new zoomable views, including a hybrid view that simultaneously shows both an analog compass dial and a digital view. Turning the Digital Crown reveals an additional view that includes latitude, longitude, elevation, and incline, as well as an orienteering view showing Compass Waypoints and Backtrack.
Backtrack uses GPS data to create a path showing where the user has been, which is useful if they get lost or disoriented and need help retracing their steps. It can also turn on automatically in the background when off the grid. Compass Waypoints are a quick and convenient way to mark a location or point of interest directly in the app. Tapping the Compass Waypoint icon drops a waypoint. Selecting one provides a targeted view of the direction of the waypoint and an approximation of how far away it is.
The Sleep experience on Apple Watch already empowers users to create Wind Down and Bedtime schedules, as well as track their sleep to help them meet their goals. Sleep tracking in watchOS 9 provides even more insights with the introduction of sleep stages. Using signals from the accelerometer and heart rate sensor, Apple Watch can estimate when users are in REM, Core, or Deep sleep, and when they are awake. Users will see sleep stage data on Apple Watch in the Sleep app and can view more detailed information, like time asleep, alongside additional metrics, like heart rate and respiratory rate, in sleep comparison charts in the Health app on iPhone.
The machine learning models were trained and validated against the clinical gold standard, polysomnography, with one of the largest and most diverse populations ever studied for a wearable. As the science of sleep is still being explored, users in the US will be able to aid in potential discoveries by contributing their sleep stage data in the Apple Heart and Movement Study through the Research app.
First-of-Its-Kind AFib History
Research suggests that the amount of time spent in AFib may impact a person’s symptoms, overall quality of life, and risk of complications.1 Previously, there has not been an easy way to track the frequency of AFib over an extended period of time, or to manage lifestyle factors that may influence one’s condition.
With watchOS 9, users who are diagnosed with AFib can turn on the FDA-cleared AFib History feature2 and access important information, including an estimate of how frequently a user’s heart rhythm shows signs of AFib, providing deeper insights into their condition.3 Users will also receive weekly notifications to understand frequency and view a detailed history in the Health app, including lifestyle factors that may influence AFib, like sleep, alcohol consumption, and exercise.
Users can download a PDF with a detailed history of their AFib and lifestyle factors, which can easily be shared with doctors and care providers for more informed conversations.
The new Medications experience on Apple Watch and iPhone helps users manage and track their medications, vitamins, and supplements, allowing them to create a medications list, set up schedules and reminders, and view information on their medications in the Health app. The Medications app on Apple Watch makes it easy for users to conveniently and discreetly track medications anytime, anywhere.
Custom schedules can be created for each medication, whether it needs to be taken multiple times a day, once a week, or as needed, and users can set up reminders to help keep them on track. In the US, users can quickly add medications using their iPhone camera, and receive an alert if there are potential critical interactions with medications they have added to the Health app.4
Updates to Cycle Tracking
With iOS 16 and watchOS 9, Cycle Tracking users can now receive a notification if their logged cycle history shows a possible deviation, such as irregular, infrequent, or prolonged periods, and persistent spotting, which can be symptoms of underlying health conditions.
Privacy is fundamental in the design and development across all of Apple’s features. When a user’s iPhone is locked with a passcode, Touch ID, or Face ID, all of their health and fitness data in the Health app — other than Medical ID — is encrypted. Any health data synced to iCloud is encrypted both in transit and on Apple servers. When using iOS and watchOS with the default two-factor authentication and a passcode, Health app data synced to iCloud is encrypted end-to-end, meaning that Apple does not have the key to decrypt the data and therefore cannot read it.
Additional watchOS 9 Updates
- Low Power Mode extends battery life, maintaining core Apple Watch features like Activity tracking and Fall Detection, while disabling or limiting select sensors and features like background heart rate monitoring and the Always-On display.
- Users can now stay connected to a cellular network while traveling abroad with international roaming plans.
- Notifications have been redesigned to be less interruptive while still being impactful, arriving with new slimline banners when Apple Watch is being actively used.
- Coming later this year, Family Setup will support the Home app so a child can be invited as a member to control HomePod speakers and smart home accessories.5 They will also be able to use home keys and hotel keys in Apple Wallet.
- With new Quick Actions on Apple Watch, users with upper body limb differences can do even more with a double-pinch gesture, including answer or end a phone call, take a photo, play or pause media in the Now Playing app, and start, pause, or resume a workout.
- Apple Watch becomes more accessible than ever for people with physical and motor disabilities with Apple Watch Mirroring, which helps users control Apple Watch remotely from their paired iPhone. With Apple Watch Mirroring, users can drive Apple Watch using assistive features on iPhone like Voice Control and Switch Control — so they can navigate Apple Watch by using their voice, sound actions, head tracking, and external Made for iPhone switches as alternatives to tapping the Apple Watch display.
- The QWERTY keyboard on Apple Watch Series 7, Apple Watch Series 8, and Apple Watch Ultra now has support for French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish (Mexico, Spain, Latin America).
- The updated Calendar app allows the creation of new events directly from Apple Watch. For the first time, users can access a Week view in addition to updated List, Day, and Month views to support more scrolling through calendar events.
- Cardio Recovery is a useful fitness metric that can be an indicator of cardiovascular health. Apple Watch now provides estimates of Cardio Recovery after an Outdoor Walk, Run, or Hiking workout, even when the workout does not reach peak intensity. This metric can be tracked over time in the Health app.
- New APIs allow developers to build best-in-class third-party apps, with CallKit and share sheet support, access to Photos picker, and the ability to integrate watchOS apps with Apple TV.