Today we got our first official look at the new watchOS 6 features. The next version of the operating system comes with a stand-alone app store, new health functionality, apps, complications and watch faces.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
Apple’s annual developer conference kicked off this morning in San Jose, California. Apple uses the gathering to showcase new apps, features and tools coming as part of the upgrades to its software ecosystem.
Those who attend have a chance to meet and consult with over 1,000 Apple engineers. This year Apple announced new versions of iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS.
Of most interest to us was the upcoming version of Apple Watch’s operating system. Here’s what’s new and different.
Stand-alone app store
Apple added LTE connectivity to Series 3 in 2017, but users still had to use a companion application on their iPhone to download and install apps. That’s all changing soon and you’ll be able to download apps on the go via an App Store that sits directly on the watch.
The functionality will enable users to browse apps or search for favorite apps. They’ll be able to read descriptions, reviews, look at screen shots and do a Siri app search – all from their wrist.
Apple says it is adding more watch-faces this time around than since the release of the first Apple Watch. This includes a gradient watch face that spits out a gradient look out of colors you choose, two new ‘X-Large’ watch faces, a ‘California’ classic watch face that mixes Roman numerals with Arabic numerals and a ‘Solar Analog’ watch face that visualizes the sun’s 24 hour path around the dial.
You’ll be able to set the Taptic Engine inside the watch to silently tap out the hour. Or set a chime to ring, instead. Hold two fingers on your watch face, and it will read out the time.
Apple enhanced its app complications last year and it is adding more complications in 2019. The new ones will show decibel levels, cellular strength, rain data and more.
Apple is also coming out with new apps for the watch. This includes Calculator, Voice Memos and Books for listening to audio books from your wrist.
Some of these can do some nifty tricks. For example, you can use the Calculator’s special functions to work out how much to tip the waiter. It even has the ability to split tips with friends at the tap of a button. These additions will make the watch even more useful and lessen the need to use your phone for basic, everyday tasks.
Developers will be able to create apps that run independently on the watch – no longer requiring a companion smartphone app. There’s also support for streaming audio API and an extended runtime API. All of his will enable a whole new generation of apps.
New health and fitness capabilities
The health upgrades will see the launch of a very cool Hearing Health app which features a decibel meter that moves in real time as sounds change. It will provide an alert if the noise is loud enough to negatively affect your hearing health. Apple says, the software periodically samples surrounding audio and does not save or record anything.
A menstrual cycle tracking app called Cycles has also been slapped on. The software gives women the ability to log cycle information and see predicted timing for their next period and fertile window.
The app will install on the Apple Watch by default when watchOS 6 rolls out. Fitbit was the first to launch a female health tracking app, and a couple of weeks ago Garmin followed up with its own version. Now Apple is jumping onto the bandwagon.
The cycle tracking app will also be able to run without an Apple Watch, in the iPhone Health app with iOS 13. And while we are on the subject, the smartphone Health app is also getting some love.
watchOS 6 brings activity trends instead of the classic monthly view we’ve become accustomed to seeing. The app will compare your activity over the last 90 days to the last 365 days. It will show if you’re trending up or down and will provide you with suggestions on how to improve these averages. The Health app will also get a new summary view, automatically generated highlights and more.
Although watchOS 6 was announced today, it won’t launch in finished form until this Autumn. Developers will be able to download a Beta version prior to official release.
“Apple Watch has become an indispensable part of our customers’ everyday lives, from helping users stay connected to the people and information they care about, to inspiring them to live a better and more active day,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer.
“watchOS 6 extends our commitment to helping users better manage their health and fitness with powerful and personal new tools.”
We’ve covered some of the most noteworthy additions in watchOS 6. Check out a few of the other updates in the screen-shot below.
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