Apple Releases watchOS 4; Bringing a Range of Enhancements and New Features to the Apple Watch

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Apple has today released watchOS 4, describing it as:

A smarter coach and workout partner. Better in tune with your taste in music. And an even more proactive all-day assistant. With watchOS 4, Apple Watch is dialed in to you like never before.

Below are some of the highlights of what watchOS 4 will bring to your wrist.

The New Features That We Think You Will Like

Siri Gets its Own Watch Face

watchOS 4 brings a new watch face with Siri built-in.

The Siri watch face uses Apple's Machine Learning technology to intelligently and dynamically predict the information that's most relevant to you, based on the apps you use, when you use them, and your daily routine.

Information can be pulled from a number of sources, including calendar events and reminders as well as data from apps like Breathe, Maps, Wallet, Activity, Apple News, Weather and Alarms. Double-tapping on any item in the data stream will show more information or open the related app. You can customize data sources through the Watch app on your iPhone, allowing you to exclude those which don't interest you.

The Siri watch face supports two complications, one of which can be a new complication that triggers Siri's voice interface when double-tapped.

Some Other Changes in watchOS 4

  • When you force press on the main app Home screen, there is a new option to switch from the standard app grid interface to a simple list of all the apps installed that can be scrolled through by swiping or with the Digital Crown.
  • The Apple Watch Dock can now be set to display your recently used apps instead of favorite apps.
  • The Mail app on the Apple Watch now allows you to compose new emails (previously you could only reply to existing emails). The compose screen is accessed with a force press on the main Mail view.
  • the Mail app now allows you to view your messages by inbox (such as inboxes that you have created, and the VIP, Flagged, and Unread inboxes).
  • You will now receive notifications that will let you know how close you are to completing an Activity goal and what you can do to reach it.
  • For swimmers, there is improved detection and counting of lengths completed..
  • The Workout app now supports auto-sets when using the swim workout option. A rest at the edge of the pool marks the end of a set, with the Workout app now offering up distance metrics for each stroke type and pace for each set.
  • You can now track multiple workouts at the same time and easily switch tracking between the different exercises that you are doing.
  • If you don't want to be disturbed by incoming notifications while exercising, there's a new "Do Not Disturb During Workouts" option that can be enabled through the Watch app on your iPhone.
  • You can now set a certain playlist to automatically play when you start a workout.
  • Music playback controls are now integrated into the Workout app.
  • New ‘Express Connect’ setting for connecting to Apple Watch-supported gym equipment.
  • There is improved support for pairing an Apple Watch with other bluetooth accessories, such as glucose monitors.
  • You can now make person to person payments with Apple Pay. This is part of new Apple Pay upgrades for iOS 11, but also works on your Apple Watch too. MB Apple confirmed on 18 September that person-to-person payments via Apple Pay will not be supported until later this Fall.
  • Automatic playlist syncing including Apple Music-recommended playlists.
  • You can now add multiple playlists to the Music app.
  • You can now use your Apple Watch to control video playback on your iPhone.
  • There is a new News app and complication.
  • Most native Watch apps have seen functional or cosmetic tweaks.
  • There are a number of new or updated complications.
  • On your birthday you will receive a "Happy Birthday" notification on your Apple Watch.

For a more complete list of what’s new in watchOS 4, MacRumors offers a good overview.

And What About Accessibility?

It is our understanding that watchOS 4 brings no substantive new features and enhancements for blind and low vision users. We are currently aware of the following accessibility-related changes:

  • Improvements in Large Text support on the Apple Watch-related iOS apps.
  • Ability to adjust the click speed of the side button, so if you have motor impairments you have more time to bring up Apple Pay and other double and triple click functions.

We have only been able to carry out some extremely limited testing of watchOS 4 prior to today’s release of the final version, so have not yet been able to explore in full these new features or check for any further changes which will effect blind or low vision users. We will update this post with anything else that we learn. To help with this, please add a comment below to let us know of any changes, improvements or regressions that you find during your own use of watchOS 4.

How to Update to watchOS 4

watchOS 4 is available by going to the Watch app on your iPhone and navigating to General> Software Update. To install the update, your Watch must be connected to its charger and have at least 50% battery power.

More information on how to update the software on your Apple Watch is available on this Apple Support page.

As always, we look forward to hearing your thoughts on this update.

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Submitted by viphoana on Saturday, September 23, 2017

Hi all,

As far as I know I have not seen many comments about watch os 4 from vo perspective.
Here is what I found so far:
1. You can now dial phone numbers in the phone app. Before the keypad was not accessible. Pretty sure keypad also works within a call.
2. Time travel in apps is better indicated. In other words you can enable going forward in time for apps like weather or calendar by turning the digital crown and vo will say "time travel" and read the info that changes as you do so.
3. You can now see the heart rate on the complication for heart rate app on your watch face. This means that you can enable auto-speak and get the heart rate easily on the go.
Changed how you transfer calls from watch to iPhone. This is I think more to do with iOS 11. When picking up phone call on watch You just have to double-tap on status bar of the phone and the phone call will transfer to phone.

Submitted by Kimbowen on Saturday, September 23, 2017

I think it’s really awesome that VoiceOver describes what each character is doing in the toy story watch face. You double tap “Jesse looks up and smiles. And the image changes to “BuzzLight-year sneaks across the screen. VoiceOver actually tells you what the characters are doing in each picture. That’s incredible, way to go, Apple!

Submitted by VivekP on Saturday, September 23, 2017

Hi all! I use apple watch series 2 and have just upgraded to watch OS4. One thing I was hoping to find was to mute VO without turning it off. I like haptic time while sitting in the library but at times instead of haptic time VO announces the time which gets embarrassing.
Anyway, I do mot think one can mute VO, instead of turning it off, or am I missing something here?

Submitted by Roxann Pollard on Saturday, September 23, 2017

I have updated my Series one watch with watchOS4. The lag time is still present, but I didn't really expect that to change, as I think it's more to do with the slower processor. I haven't noticed anything not working correctly, although, some things do act differently than before.

For one example, prior to the update, when I started an Other workout, I would open the Other button, select the time and then click start. Now however, when I click the Other button, it starts the workout. I inadvertently discovered how to change the time. Simply highlight the workout of choice, then swipe down on it and it will indicate Change Goal. Double tap on this and the old screen appears.

One thing that I like but find annoying is the new way that the Now Playing info is on display when you wake the watch. Before the update, when you wake the watch, you just see the expected watch face. Now ehn you wake the watch, The now playing info is presented and you have to hit the round button, (I don't know the proper name for that button), before you can just see the watch face. It's nice that the Now Playing is front and senter when playing something, but when I just wish to see something on the face, I have to go one step further now.

These are just my impressions, but I think that, overall, the Series One watch is performing as expected after the watchOS4 update.

Submitted by Greg Wocher on Saturday, September 23, 2017

I have upgraded my series 0 and it is working okay. I am not seeing any performance issues at all. I really, really, really do not like how the now playing screen comes up when I wake up my watch now. This just adds another step to be able to hear the time. Other than that I am not seeing any issues.

Greg Wocher

Submitted by Tree on Saturday, September 23, 2017

I agree it would be good if there was a way to quickly mute voiceover in order to use haptic time without the risk of speech feedback Until Apple makes a simple mute option, there are two ways you can make this work. What I tend to do now is simply turn voiceover all the way down, or practically all the way down. This isn't ideal, because I find the volume gestures pretty awkward. Your other option is to use the third-party app time buzz. I used to use it all the time before Apple added taptic time telling.

Thanks for the info about your experiences with the new OS on the old watch everyone.

Submitted by Teresa blaes on Wednesday, September 27, 2017

So, I am going to be getting the new series three watch however, when I look at the stuff about the watches, it is a few months old is it still relavent, reguarding how to work the watch, and how to turn voice over on, so on? I have had some experience with looking at a watch before, but this will be my first time experiencing a watch of my own. any advice?

Submitted by Tree on Wednesday, September 27, 2017

I don't think you will find too much info to be out of date. There have been some changes in the 4 OS versions that the watch has seen, but nothing too major. I believe that the largest changes came in watch OS 2 and 3, namely the side button brings up a dock, not a list of friends, glances are dead, haptic time telling etc. Siri can now talk on version three of the watch, so that is a nice change; I find her pretty pointless on my watch, because you have to touch the screen to interact with her, taking up both hands.

Submitted by Zoe Victoria on Saturday, May 25, 2019

You can swim with the thing? It's waterproof? Mindblown!

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Sunday, May 26, 2019

In reply to by Zoe Victoria

You can also take a shower. Before do so, go to control P, slide to water log and tap on it to make it work. After coming out nice clean and silky you move the crown conter clock until you hear a sound and keep doing until sound ends.