Apple Releases watchOS 8; Bringing New Ways to Stay Healthy, Active, and Connected

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Apple has today released watchOS 8, mostly bringing iterative enhancements to existing features Rather than big changes.

According to Apple, “watchOS 8 helps you stay connected, active, and healthy like never before. Share your favorite memories with the enhanced Photos app. Put more fun into your texts. Find new ways to center yourself and be present. And that’s just the start.”

Here are the highlights according to Apple's release notes:.

watchOS 8 brings you new ways to stay healthy, active, and connected. A redesigned Photos app helps you stay connected to your most precious memories, and the new Mindfulness app and new Tai Chi and Pilates workout types will help you lead a healthy and fit life. And updates to Wallet and Home make it simple and convenient to access your house, car, and even the places you love to visit.

Watch Faces

  • Portraits face uses segmentation data from portrait photos taken on iPhone to create an immersive, multi-layered face (Apple Watch Series 4 and later)
  • World Time face lets you track the time in 24 different time zones at once (Apple Watch Series 4 and later)

Home

  • Status and controls for accessories in your home now appear at the top of the Home app
  • Quick views to see if accessories are on, have a low battery, require a software update, and more
  • Accessories and scenes dynamically appear based on the time of day and frequency of use
  • Dedicated camera room for viewing all available HomeKit camera feeds in one place, with support for multiple aspect ratios
  • Favorites area gives you access to the scenes and accessories that you use most

Wallet

  • Home keys let you tap to unlock a supported home or apartment door lock
  • Hotel keys allow you to tap to unlock your room at participating hotels
  • Office keys allows you to tap to unlock your office doors for participating corporate offices
  • Car keys with Ultra Wideband on Apple Watch Series 6 let you unlock, lock, and start your supported vehicle as you approach
  • Remote keyless entry functions on your car keys allow you to lock, unlock, honk your horn, preheat your car, or open your trunk

Workout

  • New custom algorithms in the Workout app for Tai Chi and Pilates provide accurate tracking of calorie metrics
  • Automatic Outdoor Cycling workout detection sends a reminder to start the Workout app, giving you retroactive credit for exercise already started
  • Automatic pause and resume for Outdoor Cycling workouts
  • Improved accuracy of calorie metrics for Outdoor Cycling workouts while riding an e-bike
  • Users 13 and under can now track hiking workouts with more accurate metrics
  • Voice feedback announces workout milestones using the built-in speaker or connected Bluetooth device

Fitness+

  • Guided Meditations can help you practice meditation, featuring audio sessions on Apple Watch and video sessions on iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV that guide you through specific themes
  • Pilates workouts are now available, with new workouts every week that are designed to improve strength and flexibility
  • Support for Picture-in-Picture viewing on iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV, so you can watch your workout while you also view other content in compatible apps
  • Expanded workout filters for Yoga, Strength, Core, and HIIT workouts, including whether equipment is required

Mindfulness

  • Mindfulness app includes an enhanced Breathe experience along with a new Reflect session
  • Breathe sessions have tips that help add a physical connection to deep-breathing practices and a new animation to guide your session
  • Reflect sessions give you a simple idea to focus your thoughts, along with a visualization that shows the passing of a minute

Sleep

  • Respiratory rate is measured by Apple Watch during sleep
  • Ability to review respiratory rate during sleep in the Health app, and be notified if a trend has been detected

Messages

  • Ability to compose or reply to messages by using Scribble, dictation, and emoji all from the same screen
  • Ability to adjust dictated text by using the Digital Crown to scroll to where you want to edit
  • Support for #images in Messages allows you to search for a GIF or select one you’ve used recently

Photos

  • Redesigned Photos app allows you to view and manage your photo library from your wrist
  • Highlights from Memories and featured photos, in addition to your favorites, sync to Apple Watch with new content generated daily
  • Photos from synced Memories will be displayed in a mosaic-style grid, highlighting some of your best shots with a larger photo
  • Ability to share photos through Messages and Mail

Find My

  • Find Items app allows you to locate items with an attached AirTag and compatible third-party products with the Find My network
  • Find Devices app helps you locate your misplaced Apple devices, as well as devices owned by someone in your Family Sharing group
  • Find My separation alerts notify you if you leave your Apple device, AirTag, or compatible third-party item behind

Weather

  • Next-hour precipitation notifications alert you when rain or snow is about to start or stop
  • Severe weather notifications alert you about certain events including tornados, winter storms, flash floods, and more
  • Precipitation chart that visually depicts the intensity of the rain

Other features and improvements:

  • Focus lets you automatically filter notifications based on your current activity, such as fitness, sleep, gaming, reading, driving, work, or personal time
  • Apple Watch automatically aligns with any Focus that you set in iOS, iPadOS or macOS, so you can manage notifications and stay focused
  • Contacts app gives you the ability to access, share, and edit your contacts
  • Tips app provides collections of helpful hints and suggestions for how to best use your Apple Watch and its built-in apps
  • Redesigned Music app allows you to find and listen to music and radio all in one place
  • Ability to share songs, albums, and playlists in the Music app through Messages and Mail
  • Support for multiple timers, including Siri support for adding labels to timers
  • Cycle Tracking can now use heart rate data from Apple Watch to improve predictions
  • New Memoji stickers to send a shaka, a handwave, a lightbulb moment, and more
  • Over 40 outfit choices and up to three different colors to customize your Memoji stickers’s clothing and headwear
  • Real-time measurement of your headphone audio level in Control Center when listening to media
  • Ability to add transit cards in Wallet for Family Setup users in Hong Kong, Japan, and select cities in China mainland and US
  • Google account support for Calendar and Mail for Family Setup users
  • AssistiveTouch allows users with upper limb differences to answer calls, control an onscreen pointer, launch a menu of actions, and more, using hand gestures like a pinch or a clench
  • Additional larger text size option available in Settings
  • Support for the ECG app on Apple Watch Series 4 or later in Lithuania
  • Support for irregular heart rhythm notifications in Lithuania

Some features may not be available for all countries or all areas, for more information visit: https://www.apple.com/watchos/feature-availability/

For information on the security content of Apple software updates, please visit this website: https://support.apple.com/kb/HT201222

And What About Accessibility?

We have only been able to carry out some extremely limited testing of watchOS 8 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 changes in watchOS 8 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 8.

How to Update to watchOS 8

watchOS 8 is available via Over-the-Air Update (Settings > General > Software Update) or 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.

watchOS 8 requires iPhone 6s or later with iOS 15 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
  • Apple Watch Series 7

Note that not all features are available on all devices.

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.

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Comments

Submitted by DPinWI on Tuesday, September 21, 2021

When I get a new text message, if I read it on my phone, I still see a flag for new, unread messages on my watch. It's rather annoying as it appears to work in the other direction. If I read a new message on my watch, my phone is appropriately updated.

Submitted by DPinWI on Tuesday, September 21, 2021

When I am flicking through suggested replies to a text message on my watch, most of the suggestions are truncated to the first bit of sound.

Submitted by Chris Bruinenberg on Tuesday, September 21, 2021

with watch os 8, i have to find the dictate button after bringing up the physical keyboard on the watch, is there a way to disable the keyboard so i can just hit dictate?

Submitted by Earle on Wednesday, September 22, 2021

In reply to by Chris Bruinenberg

I have been reporting this all the way through the beta cycle of watchOS 8. It is very annoying. I also can’t find a way to reliably end the dictation. I just flick and double tap until I get it to end. If anyone knows of a better way I would sure love to hear about it.