Apple unveils watchOS 6: Big new Apple Watch features to look forward to

App Store, new watch faces and women's health features are coming

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.

Essential reading: Apple Watch Series 5 latest rumors and news

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.

App Store

Apple unveils watchOS 6: Big new Apple Watch features to look forward to

The headline news is that Apple will be introducing a dedicated App Store to the Apple Watch for the first time. You’ll 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. You’ll 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 unveils watchOS 6: Big new Apple Watch features to look forward to

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 it’s time to pay up at the end of a meal – 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.

Women’s health features for Watch and iPhone

Apple unveils watchOS 6: Big new Apple Watch features to look forward to

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 don’t have to have an Apple Watch if you want to make use of the feature.

New watch faces

Apple unveils watchOS 6: Big new Apple Watch features to look forward to

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

Apple unveils watchOS 6: Big new Apple Watch features to look forward to

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. It’ll compare progress over 90 days compared to last 365 days to offer insights on whether you’re on the up or you’re 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

Apple unveils watchOS 6: Big new Apple Watch features to look forward to

The Apple Watch might live on your wrist, but now it wants to help take better care of your ears. It’s 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 doesn’t 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 features…

watchOS 6 unveiled: Big new Apple Watch features to look forward to

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.

The most stylish Apple Watch bands

MIFA leather band
MIFA leather band
AWOOWELL Milanese Loop
AWOOWELL Milanese Loop
Marge Plus leather band
Marge Plus leather band
INTENY nylon sport band
INTENY nylon sport band

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  • wear4·

    4 iPads and 3 iPhones later and I'm still a big Apple fan. That said I have not purchased an Apple watch yet but I have purchased 3 different Android Ware and 3 alternate OS system "smart" watches.

    I settled on the Huawei Watch, first edition. I've purchased 2 of them, one stainless steel and the other the gold version.

    Android Ware, now Ware, has made tremendous changes and improvements and I'm please with the results to date.

    The reason I don't purchase the Apple Watch is because of the form factor.

    I simply prefer a classic round watch. The internet was teeming with images of what the Apple watch might look like before it was announced and there were many versions that were round and looked great.

    If the day comes that Apple offers a round version I will probably buy it.

  • JimboH·

    Sleep tracking could already be a thing with the series 4. I easily get a day and a half out of my series 4 and often make it to two days. I don’t charge overnight so it’s normally either charging when I get home from work the evening after the previous days morning charge or every other morning. Even on a busy day where Ive done gos related fitness more than once in the day I still only charge every morning at most.

  • yogibimbi·

    So, just to make sure I am really understanding this right: I do not need an iPhone anymore if I have an Apple Watch?

  • Philipp·

    Having been a pioneer in hearing health tech for four years, we are really happy to see that a major player like Apple has followed suit in making a commitment to hearing health. With Apple picking this up, it has now reached mass market recognition. This is a huge reinforcement of what Mimi Hearing Technologies has been saying and addressing with its products and can only serve to raise broader awareness of an issue that affects millions of people around the world every day. We hope that, through this, checking your hearing will become as common sense as brushing your teeth.