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Apple’s watchOS 9 offers new experiences, features

Market news |
By Rich Pell


Apple Watch users, says the company, will now have more watch faces to choose from, with richer complications that provide more information and opportunity for personalization. In the updated Workout app, advanced metrics, views, and training experiences inspired by high-performing athletes help users take their workouts to the next level; sleep stages have been added to the Sleep app; a new FDA-cleared AFib History feature provides deeper insights into a user’s condition; and the new Medications app makes it easy for users to conveniently and discreetly manage, understand, and track medications.

“Users around the world love Apple Watch for helping them stay connected to those they love, be more active throughout the day, and better manage their health,” says Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. “This fall, watchOS 9 takes the Apple Watch experience to the next level with scientifically validated insights across fitness, sleep, and heart health, while providing users more creative ways to make their Apple Watch their own.”

The Apple Watch’s watch faces give users the opportunity to express personal style while connecting them to relevant information at a glance through complications. watchOS 9 introduces four new faces: Lunar, which depicts the relationship between the Gregorian calendar and lunar calendar, used in many cultures such as Chinese, Islamic, and Hebrew; Playtime, a dynamic piece of art that’s unique to Apple Watch and created in collaboration with artist Joi Fulton; Metropolitan, a classic, type-driven watch face where the style changes as the Digital Crown is rotated; and Astronomy, an original face that has been completely remastered and features a new star map and current cloud data.

watchOS 9 introduces enhanced and modernized complications on some of the most classic watch faces, such as Utility, Simple, and Activity Analog, along with background color editing for Modular, Modular Compact, and X-Large for additional personalization. The new Portraits face showcases the depth effect on more photos, including cats, dogs, and landscapes, while Chinese scripts have been added as options for California and Typograph watch faces. Focus now allows users to select an Apple Watch face to automatically appear when they start a specific Focus on iPhone, such as the Photos face during a Personal Focus, helping users stay in the moment.

The Workout app, one of the most popular apps on Apple Watch, has been updated to provide richer metrics for measuring performance, as well as new training experiences to help users reach fitness goals. For triathletes, the Workout app now supports a new Multisport workout type that automatically switches between any sequence of swimming, biking, and running workouts, using motion sensors to recognize movement patterns. When each workout is complete, a redesigned summary page in the Fitness app offers additional details with interactive charts for more precise analysis.

For runners, watchOS 9 brings more data and features to help track how efficiently users run. New running form metrics, including Stride Length, Ground Contact Time, and Vertical Oscillation, can all be added as metrics on Workout Views. These metrics appear in the Fitness app summary and in the Health app, where users can see trends over time and learn from patterns.

Kickboard detection has been added as a new stroke type for Pool Swim workouts, using sensor fusion on Apple Watch to automatically detect when users are swimming with a kickboard and classify the stroke type in the workout summary along with distance swam. Swimmers can now track their efficiency with a SWOLF score — a stroke count combined with the time, in seconds, it takes to swim one length of the pool. Users can view their SWOLF average for each set in the workout summary.

Apple Fitness+ is offered as the first fitness and wellness service built around Apple Watch, designed to be welcoming to all. It intelligently incorporates real-time workout metrics from Apple Watch right on the screen with iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV. With watchOS 9, Fitness+ workouts now display on-screen guidance in addition to trainer coaching to help users get the most out of workouts, including: Intensity for HIIT, Cycling, Rowing, and Treadmill; Strokes per Minute (SPM) for Rowing; Revolutions per Minute (RPM) for Cycling; and Incline for walkers and runners in Treadmill.

Sleep tracking in watchOS 9 introduces sleep stages. Using signals from the accelerometer and heart rate sensor, Apple Watch can detect when users are in REM, Core, or Deep sleep. Users will see sleep stage data on Apple Watch in the Sleep app and can view more detailed information, like time asleep, alongside additional metrics, like heart rate and respiratory rate, in sleep comparison charts in the Health app on iPhone.

The machine learning models were trained and validated against the clinical gold standard, polysomnography, with one of the largest and most diverse populations ever studied for a wearable. As the science of sleep is still being explored, users will be able to aid in potential discoveries by contributing their sleep stage data in the Apple Heart and Movement Study through the Research app.

Currently, the ECG app and irregular rhythm notification on Apple Watch can identify potential signs of atrial fibrillation (AFib). With watchOS 9, users who are diagnosed with AFib can turn on the FDA-cleared AFib History feature and access important information, including an estimate of how frequently a user’s heart rhythm shows signs of AFib, providing deeper insights into their condition. Users will also receive weekly notifications to understand frequency and view a detailed history in the Health app, including lifestyle factors that may influence AFib, like sleep, alcohol consumption, and exercise.

The new Medications experience on Apple Watch and iPhone helps users manage and track their medications, vitamins, and supplements, allowing them to create a medications list, set up schedules and reminders, and view information on their medications in the Health app. The Medications app on Apple Watch makes it easy for users to conveniently and discreetly track medications anytime, anywhere.

Custom schedules can be created for each medication, whether it needs to be taken multiple times a day, once a week, or as needed, and users can set up reminders to help keep them on track. In the US, users can receive an alert if there are potential critical interactions with medications they have added to the Health app.

Additional updates available in watchOS 9 include new features added to notifications, Family Setup, Apple Watch Mirroring, the QWERTY keyboard, the Dock, the Reminders app, the Calendar app, and Cardio Recovery. New APIs allow developers to build best-in-class third-party apps, with CallKit and share sheet support, access to Photos picker, and the ability to integrate watchOS apps with Apple TV.

The developer beta of watchOS 9 is available to Apple Developer Program members. A public beta will be available to watchOS users next month at beta.apple.com.

watchOS 9 will be available this fall as a free software update for Apple Watch Series 4 or later paired with iPhone 8 or later and iPhone SE (second generation) or later, running iOS 16.

Apple


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