Apple announced today the latest version of its smartwatch platform, watchOS 9. On top of usual updates like new watch faces and fitness features, it’ll also introduce expanded running metrics and medication reminders. The new platform will first be available for developers, with a public beta arriving next month. The final public release is slated for this fall when the new Apple Watch Series 8 arrives.
As always, watchOS 9 will feature new watch faces. They include a new astronomy face, a lunar face, a “Playtime face,” and a new typeface screen called Metropolitan. It’s also adding new rich complications, and active apps can be pinned for quick access. There’s also a new Siri UI. Users can add more personalization to watch faces, such as editing the background color in certain watch faces. As with iOS 16, Apple Watch owners can also customize which screen they see during specific focus modes.
Apple is also adding new running metrics, such as running form, stride length, and ground contact time, and heart rate zones, which is good news if you like training by intensity. The watch will track Cardio Recovery after Outdoor Walk, Run, and Hiking workouts. You’ll be able to receive new alerts for pace, power, heart rate, and cadence. Apple said that runners will also be able to compete against their personal bests and frequently used routes. Runners can create time goals for a specific distance.
Another feature appears to be aimed at triathletes, as it’ll let you quickly switch between cycling, swimming, and running. Speaking of swimming, watchOS 9 introduces kickboard detection so the watch will be able to track swims in which a kickboard is used. It will also get a SWOLF score to measure stroke efficiency.
Users can now use the digital crown to switch between workout views. You can also now create custom workouts, so you can have a more structured session. As for Fitness Plus updates, Apple Watch users will be able to see on-screen guidance for certain metrics. That includes intensity in cardio workouts like HIIT, Cycling, Rowing, and Treadmill. Rowing will also get strokes per minute, while cycling will see revolutions per minute. Walkers and runners will be able to see incline. Lastly, Fitness Plus subscribers who don’t own an Apple TV can now see their metrics on-screen via AirPlay streaming.
The watchOS 9 app now supports medication reminders, which will be tied to the Health app and will let users build a “medications list” as well as customized schedules. You can also simply scan medications to add them. It’ll also help users figure out if any of the drugs they’re taking will interact with each other. For now, the interactions feature is limited to US users. You’ll also be able to review what health data you might be sharing with others.
There is a hodgepodge of other updates as well. Family Setup now allows children to access the Home app, so they can control HomePod speakers and other smart home devices. This extends to home and hotel keys. Notifications have been tweaked to be less disruptive, along with “slimline banners” when you’re actively using the watch. For accessibility, the company is introducing Apple Watch Mirroring, which will allow those with physical and motor disabilities to control their Apple Watch remotely.
watchOS 9 will be compatible with Series 4 or later, meaning it’s curtains for the Series 3. This is not terribly surprising. The Series 3 debuted in 2017, and users have struggled to update to newer versions of watchOS in recent years. On top of rumors that Apple will launch three new Apple Watch models later this year, it makes sense to retire the five-year-old device now that its hardware can’t support the software.