Apple Releases watchOS 7; Bringing Sleep and Handwashing Tracking, New Faces, Complication Enhancements, and More

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Apple has today released watchOS 7, bringing a new Sleep app, new watch faces, the ability to use more than one complication from an app on the same face, face configuration sharing, handwashing tracking, Family Setup, and more.

Here are the highlights.

Sleep App

Sleep is one of the most important aspects of your health. With watchOS 7, Apple Watch now uses its accelerometer to notice the subtle movements associated with breathing and differentiate between sleeping and waking states.

This data is used to generate a sleep analysis chart showing how much you’ve slept in the past week.

Beyond tracking your sleep patterns, Apple say that watchOS 7 and its new Sleep app bring a number of tools and options that allow you to create a schedule and a bedtime routine so you can meet your sleep goals.

Alerts
Get bedtime reminders and more wake‑up sounds.

Wind Down
Wound up? Wind Down assists you in establishing a bedtime routine with shortcuts that help you relax, like opening a meditation app and dimming your lights.

Wake Up
Start your morning with a weather report and your battery level. If you get up before your alarm, you’ll be asked if you want to turn it off.

Charge and recharge
If your battery is below 30 percent near bedtime, you’ll get a reminder to charge. If you charge after waking up, you’ll get an iPhone notification when you’re at 100 percent.

Sleep in the Health app
On iPhone, you can manage your sleep schedule, view sleep trends over time, and see how consistently you’re meeting your sleep goals.

Additionally, when you go to bed, your Apple Watch can automatically turn on Do Not Disturb and prevent your screen from waking.

Watch Faces and Complications

As is usual for each major watchOS release, there are new and enhanced watch faces.

New watch faces in watchOS 7 are:

  • The GMT face shows multiple time zones at once, while also taking into account your physical location. 12-hour time is displayed on the inner dial with local time, while the outer dial displays 24-hour time.
  • The Count Up face lets you start tracking elapsed time by tapping the bezel.
  • The Chronograph Pro face features multiple time scales (60, 30, 6, or 3 seconds) along with a tachymeter to measure speed based on time travel over a set distance.
  • The Typograph face displays numerals in three custom type styles (custom, modern, and rounded) and four different scripts (Arabic, Arabic Indic, Devanagari, and Roman).
  • The Art face features artistic animated designs created by artist Jeff McFetridge and which have the time overlaid.
  • The Memoji face brings animated Memoji to the Apple Watch that react to touch.
  • The Stripes face features different striped patterns in a variety of colors for supporting sports teams, matching what you're wearing, and more. You can choose the number of stripes, the number of colors, and rotate the stripes in any angle.

According to Apple, the Stripes, Typograph, Memoji, GMT, Chronograph Pro, and Count Up watch faces are limited to the Series 4, Series 5, and Series 6 Apple Watch models, along with the Apple Watch SE.

We've yet to test these faces to determine how well they perform with VoiceOver.

One other change is that the X‑Large face gets rich complications, which is likely to be welcomed by low vision users.

Watch face complications get a major upgrade in watchOS 7. You can now set more than one complication per app, so developers are able to offer more than just a single option. For example, a weather app could offer complications for temperature, conditions, precip, UV index, and wind speed, all of which could be used on the same watch face.

You can now share watch face configurations you’ve created by texting, emailing, or posting a link online. Or, use watch faces shared by other Apple Watch users or developers. If you don't have one or more of the watch apps installed that supplies complications for the shared face, you will be prompted to install it.

Additionally, a curated selection of custom watch face configurations will be available from the App Store.

Handwashing

Keeping your hands clean has never been more important. With watchOS 7, Apple Watch uses its motion sensors and microphone to automatically detect handwashing. If your watch detects that you’ve stopped washing your hands early, it will encourage you to continue for the full 20 seconds that is recommended by global health organizations. Apple Watch can also remind you to wash your hands when you get home.

Family Setup

Family Setup lets you pair watches for your children and older family members to your iPhone, meaning that they don't need to have an iPhone of their own. They will have their own phone number and you can manage their Apple Watch on your iPhone.

Parental controls allow you to approve contacts and downloaded apps. And you can schedule Schooltime mode to limit Apple Watch features. You can also use the Find My app to track their location and receive alerts when they leave or arrive at designated locations.

With Apple Cash Family, you can send money to your children to spend with Apple Pay on their Apple Watch.

Other Notable Changes

  • The Activity app has been renamed to Fitness, and you can now track your fitness metrics for Dance, Functional Strength Training, Core Training, and even your post-workout Cooldown.
  • Activity rings have been rethought for kids, tracking Move minutes instead of active calories. Running, walking, and cycling workouts also calculate metrics like distance and pace more accurately for kids.
  • You can now get spoken translations for 10 languages from Siri on your Apple Watch. Simply ask something like “how do you say good morning in French?”
  • Shortcuts can now be run from Apple Watch - there's a new Shortcuts app and shortcuts can also be added to watch faces as complications.
  • Dictation is now processed on Apple Watch, which should make it faster and more reliable.
  • You can now customize Stand hours and Exercise minutes.

And What About Accessibility?

There are some new features and enhancements coming to Apple Watch for blind and low vision users in watchOS 7:

  • The VoiceOver rotor is now available on Apple Watch, although with much fewer options than on other platforms.
  • Turning on VoiceOver is now presented as an option when setting up Apple Watch.
  • HapTic feedback is now provided when performing a VoiceOver gesture.

We have only been able to carry out some extremely limited testing of watchOS 7 ahead of today’s public release, so have not yet been able to explore in full the new features and changes mentioned above. Our early impression is that they appear to work well with VoiceOver, and at this time we are unaware of any new issues for blind or low vision Apple Watch users.

It is possible that there are further changes in watchOS 7 which will affect 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 7.

How to Update to watchOS 7

watchOS 7 requires iPhone 6s or later with iOS 14 or later and one of the following Apple Watch models:

  • Apple Watch Series 3
  • Apple Watch Series 4
  • Apple Watch Series 5
  • Apple Watch SE
  • Apple Watch Series 6

Not all features are available on all devices.

watchOS 7 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. What do you like? What do you not like? Let us know by adding a comment below.

Options

Comments

Submitted by Olivier on Friday, September 18, 2020

I can't find the braille option. It doesn't seem to be available at all. I don't know what's going on. I have a sery 5 lte 40 mm. My version is 7.0 18r382.

Submitted by Brian Giles on Friday, September 18, 2020

I'm surprised it took this long to bring the rotor to VO on the watch. It just makes sense. It also makes it way easier to adjust VO volume.

I love thehand washing thing, though I think it requires one of the newer watches. Don't think it works on the series 3.

Submitted by Roxann Pollard on Friday, September 18, 2020

I just discovered that force pressing the watch, in order to delete all notifications at once has apparently been taken away. After doing a google search, I found that you can open the notifications area in the usual way, then use the crown button to scroll up to the top of the notifications, where you can then find the clear all notifications button. I didn't find that I was very successful using this method. Out of frustration, I tried swiping the pages upward to the top and this did bring the clear all button into focus. I don't understand why Apple has removed the force press feature, when so many devices that are in circulation right now can do this gesture. Anyway I hope this helps someone.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Friday, September 18, 2020

They did not fix it. You just touch the watch the haptic starts. It is still doing what it did on OS 6.Also I heard an echo with siri voice when she tells me the time. Sleep works well. I like it.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Friday, September 18, 2020

VO now is reading monogram. Hope this continues. In previous OS 6, it did not do so. Now is working.

Submitted by Skippy on Saturday, September 19, 2020

Hi,
Has anyone here figured out a consistent way to perform the rotor gesture on the watch? I can do it, but mine never stays in the spot that I wanted to. The rotor changes, as soon as I lift my fingers off the screen. The easiest way that I have found to do it, is with my braille display, but I don’t always have that with me.
Any workarounds?

Submitted by LadyMunch on Thursday, September 24, 2020

Hi
I too cannot find options for pairing a braille display, but perhaps I need to look harder. Is this one of those features that only works on newer watches? Mine’s a Series 4. Thanks.

Submitted by Eileen on Friday, September 25, 2020

I haven't wanted to tempt fate, but I've been able to reliably use a Siri voice as my VoiceOver voice since installing watchOS 7. Previously, although this was supposedly possible on watchOS 6, my Apple Watch would either completely ignore the setting to use the Siri voice or use the voice For a matter of minutes and then revert back to the VoiceOver TTS.

Long may this continue!

Submitted by Eglė on Saturday, September 26, 2020

If somebody like to check the time by turning digital crown, there is strange bug. Seams like when you turn that crown something unexpectedly presses for example i see my hart rate data instead of time. But this behavior accurvs not every time when i turn"digital crown.

Submitted by DPinWI on Saturday, September 26, 2020

I use my series 3 watch to control playback of music on my phone. The phone is physically attached to my audio system, so it's a handy remote control for audio, as well as all the other stuff a watch and phone can do.

There have been significant changes to the Now Playing functions. Most are good, one is a downgrade for me.
I use the 5 complication Utility face. In previous versions of WatchOS, I had to set the Now Playing as a complication. Now, it shows up at the top of the screen where the notification alert appears. I really like this feature.

In the Now Playing screen of the app, you can call up a list of upcoming songs. Previously, just the song title was presented. Now, both the title an artist are there. Also, this listing loads practically instantly, and it used to be slow.

The crown volume adjustment is far less sensitive. This is nice because the slightest nudge could blast or cut the sound from the phone. Now, there is a more deliberate feel to it. Another good thing.

The one thing I miss is I used to be able to read the time if I touched between the crown and the corner of the bezel. It took some practice to hit the spot consistently. It appears this is no longer supported. I have to switch back to the home screen to check the time. A downgrade, but minor in comparisons to the above improvements.

Submitted by Scott Davert on Monday, September 28, 2020

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

To those who are looking for the braille options on Watch OS 7, I can confirm that it is not there. However, I can confirm that it's in the beta, and was informed that it is still a work in progress.

Hi. I had a feeling this would be the case. I thought I’d imagined reading about Braille on the watch for a bit until I traced it back here. I hope it works out eventually.
Thanks for letting us all know.

Submitted by twnelson07 on Tuesday, September 29, 2020

In reply to by Skippy

Unfortunately I don’t have an answer for you, but I am also having some trouble with the rotor function on my series 4 watch. No matter what I do, I can't get the rotor to even activate. I’m pressing the watch screen with two fingers and rotating them clockwise/counterclockwise but nothing happens. I wonder if it depends on which watch face is being used (I use the infograph modular.)Can anyone help?