Inside watchOS 7: ​The new features landing on your Apple Watch

What you'll get in the new watchOS 7 update
watchOS 7: everything you need to know
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watchOS 7 for Apple Watch is now available worldwide, and there's plenty to get excited about in the big annual update.

As the Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE become available, older versions of Apple's smartwatch are also getting treated to an overhaul.

Apple Watch Series 3 devices and later will all be eligible to get the free update.

How to install watchOS 7

You should get a notification to say that watchOS 7 is ready to install, or you can head to the iPhone Watch app to see if it's available.

If you need an in-depth guide to how to install updates, and what to do if watchOS 7 won't install on your Apple Watch device, check out our guide.

Native sleep tracking

watchOS 7 native sleep tracking apple watch

Before bedtime your iDevices will start Wind Down, and attempt to minimise distractions by entering do not disturb, screens are dimmed, Night Mode minimises blue light and shortcuts to apps such as Calm, Headspace and bedtime playlists on Apple Music are displayed.

The Apple Watch will also dim the screen and enter sleep mode, where the display is turned off and a sleep timer is shown when tapped.

When you fall asleep the Sleep app will track your slumber using machine learning to monitor movement from the wrist, and it analyses for micro-signals such as breathing.

The data will be fed into a newly revamped Sleep section of Apple Health, where your sleep and sleep schedules are tracked with an aim to promote bedtime consistency.

When it's time to wake up, you can set subtle alarms on the Apple Watch that take advantage of the Taptic Engine to gently rouse you.

You’ll then see Good Morning screens on both iPhone and Apple Watch – the latter will show you the battery level to remind you to charge.

Details are still a little scant on the kind of data that will be tracked, but as we predicted, Apple is putting less emphasis on hard data and more emphasis on promoting sleep hygiene.

We did think there would be a bigger emphasis on goals, but looks to be a good starting point for native sleep tracking, and of course, there are still excellent third party apps for those hungry for sleep data.

The new Fitness app

watchOS 7 new fitness app

OK, this is one for iOS 14 which you need to run watchOS 7. The Activity app is now called Fitness, and is a home for your workout data as well as daily steps and goals.

It will also be where Fitness+ is launched when it's released. That's Apple's new online workout service, which exclusively uses the Apple Watch to track your metrics.

Cardio Fitness

One change that wasn't outlined in the original announcement is the addition of VO2 Max in the Fitness app.

If you go out for an outdoor, GPS tracked run you will now get a VO2 Max score.

VO2 Max is the true measurement of your fitness, and is an estimate of the amount of oxygen your body transfers into your blood. The more it transfers, the fitter you are.

And the Apple Watch now puts a focus on this metric, and calls it the Cardio Fitness score.

We've been testing it out, and it seems pretty accurate. We're pretty in tune with our fitness levels and have had a number of VO2 Max lab tests in the past. The Apple Watch reports pretty much where we'd expect to be - where many rivals regularly estimate way too highly.

New Workout activities

watchOS 7: Apple Watch gets native sleep tracking at WWDC

The Workout app has grown again, adding support for more ways to get sweaty.

Those who love to dance are getting the biggest boost, with workout tagging for the most popular fitness dance classes, including hip hop, latin, Bollywood and cardio.

And it’s more than just a simple timer and heart rate tracker. It uses the accelerometer and gyroscope to measure your body's movement, as well tracking your heart rate throughout the session.

And it’s not just dance. Apple is added modes for core training, functional strength training and cool down.

Automatic hand-washing detection

watchOS 7: Apple Watch gets native sleep tracking at WWDC

In the wake of the global pandemic, the Apple Watch gets a new hand washing feature in watchOS 7 and, as you’d expect, a big dose of Apple ingenuity.

It will automatic detect hand washing using motion and the sound of running water.

Once detected a timer starts so you can ensure you wash your hands for the appropriate time.

If you stop short, you get a polite reminder to keep washing. And when time’s up, you get a well done.

We have to say we’re fans of the soap-suddy countdown.

New complications and Face Sharing

watchOS 7: Apple Watch gets native sleep tracking at WWDC

Another change headed to watchOS 7 is the ability to display multiple complications from a single app.

Previously, you could only display one per app, but now you can have your watch face submersed in data. That could be multiple data points from a Strava workout, or a full set of baby stats from a parenting app.

There's a new Chronograph Pro face with a tachymeter (above) and an X-Large face which can also display a complication.

And Apple is promoting Face Sharing, which does what it says on the tin. Face Sharing means you’ll be able to download watch faces from the web, apps, as well as ones your friends and family have made.

There’s also a new way to edit watch faces, making the whole process a little less fiddly.

Better on-watch Maps and cycling directions

watchOS 7: Apple Watch gets native sleep tracking at WWDC

Apple Maps has been given plenty of love at WWDC, and Apple Watch gets in on the action.

Cycling directions is a big part of the Maps overhaul, and in watchOS 7 you will get cycle-centric information including time, distance, availability of bike lanes, elevation data and whether you’ll need to dismount or carry your bicycle.