Apple has officially unveiled watchOS 6, the next big software update for the Apple Watch, at its WWDC 2019 keynote.
Much of what was rumoured prior to the big reveal seemed to be on the money, including the arrival of an on-device App Store and a bunch of new apps that have made the leap from iPhone to Watch.
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watchOS 6 will launch later this year and will be compatible with iPhone 6s or later handsets running iOS 13 or later. If you've got an Apple Watch Series 1, Series 2, Series 3 or Series 4, you'll be able to install it. But not all features will be available to all Watch models.
So, what is Apple introducing to its collection of smartwatches? Here's the lowdown on the key new watchOS 6 features you'll be able to play with.
The headline news is that Apple will be introducing a dedicated App Store to the Apple Watch for the first time. Youâll now be able to browse, purchase and install apps from the wrist and there will also be curated lists to help you find something new. Youâll also be able to search for apps via Siri, dictation and scribble features to make it easier to find the Apple Watch apps you need in your life.
The addition of an on-wrist App Store could be especially useful for users of the LTE Apple Watch, as they'll presumably be able to download apps over their data connection. All of this is yet to be confirmed, however, so don't take this as gospel.
New Apple Watch apps
Apple is bringing new apps to the Watch in watchOS 6 and that includes Audiobooks, Voice Memos and Calculator. That Calculator app will include a tip calculator feature to help make it easier to decide who owes what when itâs time to pay up at the end of a meal â handy. Audiobooks will automatically sync titles in your Reading Now list to the Watch while Voice Memos will also be joined by a redesigned Reminders app to make sure you never forget anything.
Another big piece of news on the app front is that apps can now run independently, and won't need to lean on the companion app on your iPhone. Streaming audio from apps like podcasts, music and live streaming will also be added into the mix in watchOS 6, too.
Womenâs health features for Watch and iPhone
Like Fitbit and Garmin, Apple is bringing menstrual cycle tracking to its smartwatch, enabling women to understand patterns and predict period and fertile windows, with the feature also offering the option to send out notifications with key tracking information. There is also support to add flow information and symptoms such as headaches or cramps.
Apple is making the new Cycle Tracking app available to all iPhone users, as well, so you donât have to have an Apple Watch if you want to make use of the feature.
New watch faces
Apple is still not giving us the third-party watch faces we've been pining for, but we will be getting more faces to choose from that will also offer better support for complications.
There's a new 'Gradient' face on the way, which will give you a, you guessed it, gradient of any colour you choose; a 'California' dial, mixing Roman and Arabic numerals; a redesigned 'Solar Analog' that looks like a sundial; an 'Infograph Subdial' with larger complications; and two new 'X-Large' faces for those who just like to really see the time.
A watch that chimes
Yes, Apple is bringing a feature to add that traditional timekeeping feel to its smartwatch, using the onboard taptic engine to send a silent vibration on the hour. You'll also be able to set an audible chime and hold two fingers on the watch face to hear the time out loud.
Activity app gets trendy
The Apple Watch is a pretty fantastic fitness tracker, and while we're big fans of closing those rings, that tracking data doesn't really get put to good use. That's something Apple is planning to change in watchOS 6 with the introduction of Activity Trends.
The Watch will now analyse nine key health and fitness metrics including walking pace, flights of stairs climbed, VO2 Max and cardio fitness level. Itâll compare progress over 90 days compared to last 365 days to offer insights on whether youâre on the up or youâre slacking and offer coaching to keep you on top of your goals.
Siri and Shazam buddy up
Apple bought sound discovery app giant Shazam last year and now it's better integrating the service with its smart assistant. Now when you're out and hear a song you like, you can raise your wrist and ask what it is. It looks like this is a feature that will require cellular connectivity to make the most of it though.
Hearing the noise
The Apple Watch might live on your wrist, but now it wants to help take better care of your ears. Itâs introducing a new Noise app, which uses the on-board microphone to assess the decibel level in your current environment. It will alert you when your ears are being exposed to dangerous sound levels that could cause temporary hearing loss. Apple was also keen to make it clear that it doesnât record or save the audio that the Noise app monitors.
Send Animojis and Memojis
Apple is bringing those live stickers it debuted on the iPhone down to the wrist, letting you respond to messages from your Apple Watch with a singing poop or monkey when words, scribbles or your voice just don't cut it.
More watchOS 6 featuresâŚ
In typical Apple fashion, it didn't cover all of the watchOS 6 features, but it did flash some more of them up at the end of its Apple Watch segment at its WWDC keynote. Some that have caught our eye are the chances of rain complication, smarter guidance in Maps, the ability to reorder faces on the Watch, using a stopwatch during workouts and a cellular connectivity complication. While they might not sound like groundbreaking features, they might be the type to prove useful day-to-day.