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Apple announces watchOS 8 with new health features

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A new Mindfulness app to help you be... mindful

Vjeran Pavic

Apple has just announced watchOS 8, the latest version of the company’s smartwatch platform for the Apple Watch. The new software succeeds last year’s watchOS 7 and is going to be first available for developers to test their apps with starting today, with a public beta coming in July. A final public release is expected later this fall.

Apple is debuting a new Mindfulness app, an extension of the Breathe app that nags you to breathe throughout the day. It’s adding new animations and other features to help you relax.

The Fitness app is getting more workout types for tai chi and pilates. The Apple Watch’s Health app will explicitly track your respiratory rate while sleeping and notify you if it’s outside of your normal patterns.

A new Portrait watchface is coming in watchOS 8.

There’s a new watchface that will let you use a photo taken with the iPhone’s portrait mode and layer text and other information behind it. Apple says you will be able to customize what text is shown and how it integrates with the image itself.

Similarly, the Photos app on the watch is getting upgraded with a new layout and the ability to share photos directly through Messages or Apple’s Mail app. There are new text entry options when replying to messages.

The suite of new features coming in watchOS 8.

WatchOS 8 will be gaining some of the new features coming in iOS 15, including the new focus mode that lets you choose apps or contacts to push notifications to you in specific contexts. Apple says that the Series 6 watch will get support for car key support, utilizing its UWB radio. You’ll also be able to use your watch to find other Apple devices, such as AirTags.

The Home app, which lets you control smart home gadgets from the Apple Watch, is getting redesigned for watchOS 8, with more shortcuts to commonly used devices and the ability to view camera feeds from security cameras.

There are a handful of other new features coming, too, including next-hour precipitation alerts. More native apps will be able to take advantage of the Apple Watch’s always-on display, including Maps, Mindfulness, Now Playing, Phone, Podcasts, Stopwatch, Timers, and Voice Memos. Apple says it is providing an API for third-party apps to use it as well.

And finally, you’ll be able to set multiple concurrent timers on the Apple Watch and give them unique names. Big stuff.

Apple says watchOS 8 will be available for models reaching back to the Series 3. Here’s hoping it’s actually possible to install it on that model.

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