September 20, 2021
watchOS 8 is available today
New cycling and wellness features, fresh watch faces, more access with Wallet, and a redesigned Home app arrive for Apple Watch users
Apple today launched watchOS 8, bringing powerful features to help Apple Watch users stay connected, be more active, and better understand their overall health and wellness. New workout types, updates to cycling, and the new Mindfulness app expand support for physical and mental well-being, while enhanced capabilities with the Wallet and Home apps enable users to more seamlessly use Apple Watch on the go and at home. The redesigned Photos app, new watch faces, and tools in Messages provide customers with more ways to connect with loved ones.
watchOS 8 introduces two new popular workout types that are beneficial for both physical fitness and mindful movement: Tai Chi and Pilates. These new workout types are supported by powerful, validated, custom-built heart rate and motion algorithms to provide users with accurate calorie metrics.
The update also adds new features for anyone who rides a bike. Apple Watch uses advanced algorithms to analyze GPS, heart rate, accelerometer, and gyroscope data to detect when users begin a ride, and prompts them to start an Outdoor Cycle workout if one was not initiated.1 Cycling workouts now have auto-pause and resume so metrics more accurately reflect time spent moving versus stationary, like waiting at a stoplight.
Apple Watch more accurately measures active calories when riding an e-bike, with an updated cycling workout algorithm that evaluates GPS and heart rate data to better determine when users are riding with pedal-assist versus leg power alone. New voice feedback through the built-in speaker of Apple Watch, or through AirPods or other Bluetooth headphones, will automatically announce workout milestones and Activity ring status, helping users stay focused during activities like running or HIIT.
Fall Detection Update
With watchOS 8, fall detection algorithms are updated and optimized for detecting falls during workouts — including cycling — and have been tuned to recognize the unique motion and impact of falls from a bike and other workout types.2
A New Approach to Mindfulness
The Breathe app is now the Mindfulness app, featuring an enhanced Breathe experience; a new session type, Reflect; and guided Meditations for Fitness+ subscribers. Reflect offers a mindful intention to focus on for as little as a minute that can be done anywhere and at any time, and each session welcomes the user with a unique, thoughtful notion to consider that invites a positive frame of mind.
Starting Monday, September 27, new guided Meditations will be uploaded each week in audio form in the new Mindfulness app on Apple Watch for Fitness+ subscribers, in addition to being available as an immersive video experience on iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. These can be played directly from Apple Watch when paired with AirPods or other Bluetooth headphones, so users can experience guided Meditation at their convenience. Users who want to practice meditation while moving will also be able to track their activity with the Workout app.
Sleeping Respiratory Rate
Apple Watch helps users meet their sleep goals by establishing a pre-bedtime routine, and tracks metrics like time asleep, heart rate, and blood oxygen. watchOS 8 provides users even more insight into their overall wellness by tracking sleeping respiratory rate — the number of breaths per minute. This information can be viewed, along with trends over time, in the Health app on iPhone.
More Access with Wallet
With watchOS 8, Wallet brings even more contact-free ways for users to access the places and things they care about seamlessly, safely, and securely. Ultra Wideband support arrives for digital car keys,3 and Apple Watch users can securely unlock their car from a distance and start it from the driver’s seat. Additionally, users can add home and hotel keys as well as corporate badges to Wallet, and tap their Apple Watch to unlock.4
Beginning with Arizona and Georgia, and followed by Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Utah, users will be able to add their driver’s license or state ID to Wallet, and present it at select TSA checkpoints and lanes.5
Redesigned Home App
The redesigned Home app offers more convenient control for accessories and scenes, as well as the ability to control accessories by room. Users with a HomeKit-enabled camera can view who is at the door directly on their wrist. Apple Watch users can also tap Intercom to quickly broadcast a message throughout the home or to individual rooms via HomePod mini.
New Apple Watch Faces
The new Portraits watch face brings to life stunning portrait photos shot on iPhone with an immersive, multilayered effect, intelligently recognizing faces in photos and cropping in to highlight the subject. The classic World Time face, based on heritage watches and ideal for travelers, tracks the time in 24 time zones around a double dial.6
Communicating on Apple Watch is even easier with new tools in Messages. Users can combine the use of Scribble, dictation, and emoji all within the same message, and for dictated messages, they have the option to edit the presented text. To easily add even more expression to a message, users can simply enter a word or phrase and select from hundreds of trending GIFs.
Focus is a new way to help reduce distraction by filtering notifications from people and apps based on what a user is currently doing. Apple Watch automatically aligns with any Focus set on iOS, iPadOS, or macOS. Users can set automations to turn on Focus at relevant times, like the Fitness Focus when starting a workout.
Additional watchOS 8 Features
- The redesigned Photos app offers new ways to view and navigate collections; Memories and Featured Photos now sync to Apple Watch; and photos can be shared through Messages and Mail.
- Multiple timers can be given a specific label using Siri (such as “Hey Siri, start a 10-minute pasta timer”).
- The Contacts app is now on Apple Watch, providing a simple way for users to browse, add, edit, and share contacts directly from the app.
- More Apple Watch apps support the Always-On display, including Maps, Mindfulness, Now Playing, Phone, Podcasts, Stopwatch, Timers, and Voice Memos.
- To support Apple Watch users with upper-body limb differences, AssistiveTouch enables one-arm usage of Apple Watch by sensing simple hand gestures to interact without touching the display. Using the built-in motion sensors, users can answer incoming calls, control an on-screen motion pointer, and surface an action menu that can access Notification Center, Control Center, and more.7
- A new Find Items app on Apple Watch helps users locate items with an attached AirTag and compatible third-party items using the Find My network, and a new Find Devices app helps users locate lost Apple devices that are signed in with the same Apple ID.
- The redesigned Music app enables users to share songs, albums, and playlists through Messages and Mail, and enjoy music and radio all in one place.
- The Weather app now supports Severe Weather notifications, displaying government alerts about certain severe weather events. The app also delivers Next Hour precipitation alerts and offers updated complications.
- Family Setup now includes the ability to add transit cards from Hong Kong, Japan, and select China mainland and US cities, and Calendar and Mail offer the option to add a Google account.
- watchOS 8 is available as a free software update starting today for Apple Watch Series 3 models and later. For more information, visit apple.com/watchos/watchos-8.
- Apple Fitness+ updates will be available beginning Monday, September 27.
- Some features may not be available in all regions or all languages, or with all makes and models.
- Available on Apple Watch SE, Apple Watch Series 6, and Apple Watch Series 7.
- Fall detection for workouts will come in a watchOS 8 update later this year for Apple Watch Series 4 and later. This feature applies to workouts initiated in the Workout app or third-party workout apps that sync with the Health app.
- Available on Apple Watch Series 6 and later. Digital car keys require a participating car manufacturer and will be coming later this year.
- Support for new keys in Apple Wallet requires a compatible door lock for homes, offices, and hotels that will be available through third parties.
- Participating states and the TSA will share more information at a later date about when support for mobile driver’s licenses and state IDs in Wallet will be available in each state, and which TSA airport security checkpoints and select lanes it will be available at first.
- Portraits and World Time faces are available on Apple Watch Series 4 and later.
- Available on Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE.
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