It's a big day for Apple fans, with the company unveiling all of the cool new features that come with a whole collection of major software updates, and while iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 naturally got some of the biggest changes, watchOS 7 wasn't far behind, delivering several new improvements that take Apple's wearable device to a whole new level of usefulness.
From new workouts to sleep tracking to hand washing, watchOS 7 has something for everyone, and is also no doubt laying the groundwork for the Apple Watch Series 6 that we'll see arriving this fall. Read on for 6+ new features coming to watchOS 7.
Apple's watchOS complications are a great way to get information from your favourite apps at a glance, but they've generally suffered from one important limitation — you can only have one complication per app, per watch face. Although a few developers have found clever ways to work around this, for the most part it prevents users from setting up more focused watch faces for specific tasks.
With watchOS 7, however, Apple will now allow developers to enable multiple complications on the same face, along with richer complications. This will empower specialized watch faces for things like workouts, baby monitoring, or busy workdays, allowing the same information to be presented in different ways. For example, a weather app could provide multiple complications for temperature, precipitation, and wind speed, while a workout app could offer calories burned, heart rate, and distance in multiple complications on the same face.
Apple is also offering up its own advanced complications and new watch faces, including a chronograph face that includes an integrated tachometer, and an X-Large face that will provide room for one big rich complication right in the center.
Now that watchOS 7 will allow for more sophisticated custom watch faces, Apple is letting users install and share customized watch faces for the first time.
While developers won't be able to create whole new watch faces from scratch — they'll still be limited to the predesigned faces that Apple provides — they can build these up with their own complication layouts and then deliver them to the Apple Watch from within their own apps. This will allow apps to provide watch faces that are customized for monitoring the relevant information, saving users the trouble of having to customize their own watch faces, or at least giving them a good starting point to build upon.
Users will also be able to share their own customized watch faces via iMessage, and watch faces can even be delivered from websites. If the complications used on a shared watch face require a specific app to be installed, watchOS 7 (and the Watch app on iOS 14) will offer a button to quickly install the necessary app right from the App Store.
Accompanying the new advanced cycling directions in iOS 14, watchOS 7 will naturally bring them to the Maps app on the Apple Watch, providing haptic turn-by-turn directions for cyclists and the ability to see their routes by glancing at their wrist rather than having to pull out their iPhone.
The Maps app in watchOS 7 will provide all of the same information right on the watch face, including time, distance, bike lanes, the busyness of roads, travel time, elevation changes, and more, along with notifications for when it's time to dismount and walk the bike to either cross roads or climb stairs. Notifications and directions will also be provided for optimal resting points and spots like bike repair shops.
New Workouts: Dancing and More
The watchOS 7 Workouts app will add support for several new workout types, most significantly including a new "Dance" workout, designed to track some of the most popular styles of dance from hip hop and Bollywood to Latin and cardio dances.
This is actually more complicated than it sounds, since dancing can't be tracked like traditional workouts, since there are so many different varieties where arms and legs move very differently. Apple has used advanced sensor fusion techniques and machine learning to determine which parts of the body are moving and how they're moving, while also factoring heart rate data into the mix.
To go along with this, Apple has also redesigned the Activity app on the iPhone, renaming it to Fitness and offering new Summary and Trends layouts to see more fitness data at a glance.
In addition, watchOS 7 adds new workout types for Core Training and Functional Strength Training, as well as a "Cool Down" workout type that can be added to other workouts to track stretches and other cool down exercises.
Sleep Tracking and Wind Down
Apple added very rudimentary "bedtime" tracking to its Clock app back in iOS 10, but it's been clear for a while that this was just the first step to a more comprehensive sleep tracking system that Apple has been working on ever since it acquired Beddit a couple of years ago.
With watchOS 7, Apple is debuting what it describes as a more "holistic" approach to sleep, which will not only provide statistics, but will help users to actually meet their goals by providing features that encourage users to wind down properly before their scheduled bedtime as well as gently easing them into their morning routines.
A new Wind Down mode is being added in watchOS 7 and iOS 14 that will help to minimize distractions by dimming the screen, enabling do not disturb, and offering up shortcuts for things like playing music or ambient sounds, turning off home devices, offering up evening readings, or whatever else you may want to do to prepare for bed.
On the other side, you'll be able to choose from gentle wake up alarm sounds or even a silent Taptic alarm so that you don't disturb your partner, along with a friendly morning greeting to ease you into the day. It will also provide a battery level indicator so you can remember to take your Apple Watch off and drop it onto your charger in the morning, since you'll need to wear it to bed in order to properly track your sleep. Hopefully the Apple Watch Series 6 will offer even more battery improvements.
During the night, the Apple Watch will keep the screen off to save power and avoid distractions while tracking things like heart rate and tossing and turning as well as even the most micro movements, such as breathing rates. This will all be recorded in a dedicated Sleep app and fed into the standard iOS 14 Health app to give you feedback on how well you're actually sleeping.
In a clear sign of the times, watchOS 7 will now offer the ability to track your handwashing habits, automatically detecting when you begin washing your hands based on your hand motions recorded by the accelerometer as well as listening for the sounds of running water and swishing soap.
A countdown screen will be shown, along with haptic sounds to track how long you wash your hands, along with reminders to wash longer as necessary, and a "Well done" message when you've washed them sufficiently.