watchOS 9 has new watch faces, updated sleep tracking capabilities, new Workout features, and a Medications app for tracking medications, vitamins, and supplements.
- Four new watch faces
- Medications app
- Sleep stage tracking
- AFib History
- Custom workouts
- Redesigned notifications
- Apple Watch Mirroring
As the watchOS 8 was firstly introduced later this year, the watchOS 9 was previewed at the 2022 Worldwide 2022 Worldwide Developers Conference in June as the latest version of the watchOS operating system that runs on Apple watch.
The watchOS 9 update features design improvements, new watch faces, and new apps, with a particular focus on updated health and fitness capabilities.
There are four new watch faces that are available. Lunar depicts the relationship between the Gregorian calendar and various lunar calendars, while Playtime features fun, animated, and personified numbers created in collaboration with artist Joi Fulton. Metropolitan is a classic type-driven watch face with a style that changes as the digital crown is turned, and Astronomy is a revamped version of the original astronomy watch face with a remastered design and new star map and cloud data.
Apple has also updated several existing watch faces. Utility, Simple, and Activity Analog have enhanced and modernized complications available, and Modular and X-Large feature background color editing. The Portraits watch face adds a depth effect to more photos, including cats, dogs, and landscapes, and the Focus mode feature can now be associated with a specific watch face, so if you’re in a “work” mode, you can set it to a watch face different from what it might be in “personal” Focus mode.
Sleep tracking in watchOS 9 now includes sleep stages, allowing users to detect when users are in REM, Core, or Deep sleep. You can see the sleep stage data in the sleep app and see more info in the Health app on iPhone.
There is a new Medications app to help Apple watch users manage and track their medications, vitamins, and supplements. The app sends reminders when it’s time to take them, and watches out for any drug interactions (U.S. only). Data is synced to the Health app on iPhone, they can get more info from here.
The Digital Crown is updated to swap between Workout Views, and there is a new option to create custom workouts that can include work and rest intervals. Heart Rate Zones can be created to monitor the intensity of a workout, and there are new alerts for pace, power, heart rate, and cadence that can guide users through workouts. Swimmers have access to a new automatic kickboard detection stroke type, and efficiency can be tracked with a SWOLF score that combines stroke count with the time it takes to swim the length of the pool.
For triathletes, there’s a new Multisport workout type that can swap between swimming, biking, and running workouts, and for runners, the Fitness app offers more data. Runners can track Stride Length, Ground Contact Time, and Vertical Oscillation, plus there are options to race against the best or last result on frequently used routes.
New Watch Faces
The lunar dial depicts the relationship between the Gregorian calendar and the lunar calendar used in cultures including Chinese, Islamic and Hebrew. Up to four complications are available for this watch face.
Playtime Apple watch face features animated numbers. The design of the watch face collabrated with artist Fulton. The background will change by rotating the Digital Crown. The characters in the watch face react if you tap on them. You can choose to have a confetti background or a solid background, but there are no complications.
Metropolitan is a classic Apple Watch face that changes style when the digital crown switches. The custom-designed figures vary in style and weight, and rotate into a pill when the wrist is down. Up to four complications can be added to the circular dial, and the colors are customizable.
Astronomy is actually a modified version of the original Astronomy surface, but remastered and includes a new star map and current cloud data based on your location. You can set the Earth, Moon or Solar System as the main view and customize the font. It supports two complications, and the rotating digital crown lets you fast forward or rewind to see the moon phase/planet position for another day.
Watch Face Improvements
- Utility – New, updated complications.
- Simple – New, updated complications.
- Activity Analog – New, updated complications.
- Modular – Background color editing.
- X-Large – Background color editing.
- Portraits – The Portraits watch face adds depth effect to more photos, including cats, dogs, and landscapes.
Apple highly focus on the built-in Sleep app on the Apple Watch in watchOS 9, introducing Sleep Stages. With Sleep Stages, you can know how much time you spent in REM, Core, or Deep sleep during the night, along with the amount of time that you were awake.
With sleep comparison charts shown heart rate and respiratory rate in Health app, you can see how you’re doing through the night.
WatchOS 9 Medications App
There’s a new Medicines app on the Apple Watch that works with the Medicines feature in the iPhone’s Health app. On your iPhone, you can add all the medicines, vitamins and supplements you take, as well as when you need to take them.
From there, you can get reminders to take your medications on your Apple Watch, and you can mark when you’ve taken them to keep a record of your habits.
Workout App Updates
You can see new views of metrics that include Activity rings, Heart Rate Zones, Power, and Elevation depending on which workout you’re doing. To know that, you only need to turn the Digital Crown while doing a workout in watchOS 9
Heart Rate Zones let you know your intensity level at a glance. You can move through different zones depending on your heart rate when doing workout. The Apple Watch automatically calculates training zones using your personalized health data, but you can also create zones manually.
Workouts can be customized with different work and recovery intervals using different training styles, while the Apple Watch sends alerts for cadence, heart rate, cadence, and strength so you can track any metric you want.
For running workouts, Apple will provide feedback to let you know if you’re trying to reach your goals, and there are also some new running table metrics, including stride length, ground contact time, and vertical oscillations, all designed to help you understand the effectiveness of your own operations.
Apple Watch can also calculate performance, a measure of your effort while running, and workout summaries are enhanced for workouts like outdoor running.
With Outdoor Run or Cycle workouts, you can now opt to race against your last or best result, and there are new multisport modes for triathletes. The Pool Swim workouts function supports Kickboard as a new stroke type, and swimmers can track their SWOLF score for each set to measure efficiency.
Apple Fitness+ subscribers who use AirPlay to watch their workouts can now see their real-time metrics on compatible third-party television sets.
The service has also been updated as a new trainer callouts feature. Apple Fitness+ instructors will call out Intensity Metrics and they will appear on the screen for motivation. Intensities include Easy, Moderate, Hard, and All Out.
Trainers also now offer more assistance with rowing, cycling, and treadmill workouts to help users adjust their pace and get the most out of their workouts.
The ECG app on the Apple Watch is able to detect atrial fibrillation (AFib), an irregular heart rhythm that can be indicative of serious health issues.
For those who have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, Apple has added a new AFib History option that can track it. With AFib History, you can see an estimate of how frequently your heart has arrhythmia, and you can see how factors like sleep, exercise, and weight can affect AFib.
Other New Features
- Focus – The mode can be set to different watch faces so you can have a separate watch face for each Focus.
- Calendar – Events can be created directly from the Apple Watch, and it’s also easy to navigate to specific days or weeks.
- Dock – Apps running in the background are prioritized over the other apps in the Dock so it’s easier to get back to them.
- Notifications – When the Apple Watch is in active use, notifications show up as unobtrusive banners. They’re standard full-screen notifications when the wrist is down and the Apple Watch is not activated.
- Family Setup – Kids who have their parents set up an Apple Watch can now access the Podcasts app, the Home app, and various digital keys stored in the Wallet app.
- Quick Actions – With Quick Actions, you can use a double-pinch gesture to do things like starting a workout or take a photo depending on the app you’re using.
- CallKit – Third-party VOIP apps can now allow calls to be answered on Apple Watch.
- Apple Watch Mirroring – The Apple Watch Mirroring accessibility feature is designed to allow the Apple Watch to be controlled via the iPhone using AirPlay. It allows for assistive features like Switch Control and Voice Control.
- Maximum Battery Capacity Recalibration – With watchOS 9, Apple is adding a new recalibration feature for the Apple Watch Series 4 and Apple Watch Series 5, according to the watchOS 9 release notes. The recalibration will result in a more accurate estimate for maximum battery capacity.
watchOS 9 works with the Apple Watch Series 4 and later, and it drops support for the Apple Watch Series 3. A full list of compatible devices is below.
- Apple Watch Series 4
- Apple Watch Series 5
- Apple Watch SE
- Apple Watch Series 6
- Apple Watch Series 7
watchOS 9 is available to developers at the current time, with Apple to release a public beta in July. watchOS 9 will see a public launch this fall alongside new Apple Watches, likely in September.