Apple watchOS 8 public release is today, here’s how to update your watch

If you’ve been eagerly waiting for WatchOS 8 you’ll be happy to know the public release will be on Monday, September 20th. Here’s everything you need to know about the new version of the operating system, exactly when it will be available and how to install it.

WatchOS 8 was announced at Apple’s WWDC 2021

The software was first demoed at Apple’s WWDC 2021 in June. This saw the official unveiling of iOS 15, WatchOS 8, along with new versions of iPadOS, macOS and tvOS. All of these come with a plethora of updates.

The all-important gathering brought together developers from all over the world. They typically congregate on San Jose, California. In 2021, however, they dialed in from the comfort of their homes and offices. Last year was the first time this format was adopted.

“We love bringing our developers together each year at WWDC to learn about our latest technologies and to connect them with Apple engineers,” said Susan Prescott, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide Developer Relations and Enterprise and Education Marketing prior to the event.

“We are working to make WWDC21 our biggest and best yet, and are excited to offer Apple developers new tools to support them as they create apps that change the way we live, work, and play.”

The decision did not come as too much of a surprise. The coronavirus pandemic has caused a number of events to be cancelled this year.

Essential readingTop fitness trackers and health gadgets

To offset local businesses losses due to the online-only format, Apple has committed $1 million to SJ Aspires, an education and equity initiative launched by the City of San José. This was part of its $100 million Racial Equity and Justice Initiative.

WatchOS 8 – what’s new?

The first question on your mind will probably be – what is new? Is it worth upgrading?

There is nothing too revolutionary in watchOS 8, but it is important to remember that each subsequent version of the operating system introduces performance enhancements across the board. Apart from that you get the a bunch of handy updates.

The Breathe app has been enhanced and renamed to Mindfulness. It has gone through a redesign and includes nifty animations to help you relax.

Reflect offers you a new way to chill out. Research has shown that regular mindful moments and uplifting messages can lead to less stress and a more positive mindset.

WatchOS 8 comes with respiratory info & new mindfulness tools

Respiratory information will also be tracked while you sleep for the first time. This is the number of breaths per minute. Such information can be used to identify if you are coming down with something. Apple will also send you an alert if your respiratory rate reaches a threshold.

This type of metric has been available for some time on sports watches. Garmin and a number of other brands have had it for a while now. It is a useful upgrade.

WatchOS 8 comes with respiratory info & new mindfulness tools

There’s a new Tai-Chi workout. This is an ancient practice that can help to reduce stress. Another workout that is new is Pilates.

Apple has upgraded Fitness+ with new exercises. There’s a new artist spotlights series for music to motivate you while you workout.

WatchOS 8 comes with respiratory info & new mindfulness tools

New portraits watch faces are also being introduced. They use portrait mode photos from your iPhone. You can scroll the digital crown to view dynamic, multilayered effects.

The photos app has been redesigned and now includes memory highlights, featured photos in addition to your favorites. There’s also the addition of a mosaic photo gallery layout.

Composing messages on the Apple Watch has been made easier. And there’s also better integration with Smart Home equipment. For example, the Wallet app has been upgraded to allow for digital key integration.

WatchOS 8 comes with respiratory info & new mindfulness tools

iOS 15 related health updates

Apple’s commitment to health is stronger than ever. To this end, the company is adding new features to help you identify, measure and track health changes in iOS15.

WatchOS 8 comes with

The iPhone already captures mobility data. But now this is upgraded with something called Walking Steadiness. This allows you to know if your fall risk is increasing.

Sensors measure changes in your balance, stability and coordination. This is compared to a large dataset to dish out a Walking Steadiness measurement. This is charted over time and you’ll get notifications on how your steadiness is changing. What’s more you’ll get suggestions on how to improve your steadiness.

The health app now includes detailed descriptions for Lab Data. For example if you receive your cholesterol results, you’ll get detailed descriptions on good and bad cholesterol, along with what constitutes healthy ranges. That will allow you to better understand your results.

You’ll get insights on long-term health trends. This will help you identify changes that might make a difference to meeting your health goals and identify potential issues.

The company is also introducing ways to send your health data in a secure way – for example with your doctor. Not even Apple will be able to access such info. You’ll be able to share the info straight from your Apple device. This will be connected to a number of health providers.

WatchOS 8 comes with

To round things off, there’s something called Family Health Sharing. For example, this allows you to keep tabs on your parents health. A heart rate increase of your loved one can let you know something might be amiss. Once again all the info is encrypted so no-one else can read it.

WatchOS 8 – how to install

Previous versions of watchOS 8 were in Beta so it was a risk installing them. The one that is being released on Monday, September 20th is the one that is ready for the public. Hopefully Apple has squashed all the bugs over the summer and everything will work seamlessly.

First off, make sure your device is compatible with the new operating system. Most owners of Apple Watches will be able to upgrade their timepiece. WatchOS 8 works on everything that support watchOS 7.

Here’s the full list:

  • Apple Watch Series 3
  • Apple Watch Series 4
  • Apple Watch Series 5
  • Apple Watch SE
  • Apple Watch Series 6

Of course, when Apple Watch Series 7 becomes available it will have watchOS 8 installed out of the box.

You can do the installation by choosing one of two ways, via the Apple Watch or via the iPhone. Most people will probably find it simpler to upgrade from their watch. The procedure is no different than installing regular software updates.

Make sure your watch is connected to Wi-Fi and that it has at least 50% of battery life left. This is because software installations are very power hungry. Plus the update is over 500MB in size. You’ll also need to have iOS15 installed on your smartphone in order for everything to go smoothly.

Open up the Apple Watch’s Settings app, tap on General and choose Software Update. Choose install and simply follow the on-screen instructions to complete the process. Once the installation is done the watch will reboot itself. The complete process could take up to 20 minutes depending on the speed of your internet connection.

The other way to do this is from the iPhone Apple Watch app. Open up the iPhone software and choose the My Watch tab/General/Software Update. You should see watchOS listed there. Tap on Download and Install and follow the onscreen instructions.

There’s also an option here that allows you to automatically install software updates. Toggle this to “on” and you’ll get notified when watchOS8 is available.

We know wearOS 8 will be landing on Monday but Apple has not said exactly at what time. Having said that, past experience has though us that this typically occurs around 10AM PST or 1PM EST. Check out the table below what this translates into for your particular time-zone.

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Ivan Jovin

Ivan has been a tech journalist for over 7 years now, covering all kinds of technology issues. He is the guy who gets to dive deep into the latest wearable tech news.

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