Apple Watch | watchOS 8 Public Beta Is Here with These 8 New Features

watchOS 8 New Features Credit: Apple
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Last year, Apple surprised us by making watchOS 7 available to public beta testers, marking the first time the Apple Watch had been included in its public beta program — and it’s continuing that trend this year with watchOS 8.

Apple has been offering public betas for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS since 2016, however until last year, watchOS was always left out — and with good reason: Unlike the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, there’s no way to revert your Apple Watch to a previous version of watchOS should something go wrong.

This didn’t change when Apple released the watchOS 7 betas last year, but it appears that Apple felt it was more important to make sure that anybody who was trying out the iOS 14 public beta on their iPhone should have the corresponding watchOS version available to them to avoid any potential incompatibility issues.

However, this policy hasn’t changed with watchOS 8 this time around either, so even though the watchOS 8 public beta arrived alongside its iOS 15 counterpart, early adopters should be a bit warier about installing it on their primary Apple Watch.

Remember that once you install the watchOS 8 public beta, there’s no going back. If you run into serious problems, you’ll be left either waiting for the next beta in hopes that they’re fixed, or going out and buying a new Apple Watch.

That said, Apple is clearly getting much more confident in its software releases, and even the first developer beta of watchOS 8 has proven remarkably stable — I’ve been running it on my Apple Watch Series 5 for the past two weeks with no problems at all. Of course, your mileage may vary, so a healthy dose of caution is still highly recommended.

Is watchOS 8 Worth It?

The other question, of course, is whether it’s even worth jumping into the watchOS 8 public beta at this point. While iOS 15 is chock-full of cool and interesting new features, the corresponding Apple Watch update is much more modest by comparison.

In fact, when Apple unveiled watchOS 8 last month, it spent at least just as much time talking about new Apple Fitness+ initiatives as it did talking about new watchOS features.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t some cool new stuff packed into watchOS 8, but most of it isn’t the kind of stuff that’s exciting enough to make early adopters want to rush out and try it right away.

Of course, if you’re already running the iOS 15 public beta on your primary iPhone, you will need to have watchOS 8 on your wearable to take full advantage of features like the new Focus modes and advanced notification controls. Since most notifications are generated from your iPhone and simply displayed on your Apple Watch, however, you’ll still be able to enjoy some of these benefits on watchOS 7 — it just won’t be a completely seamless experience.

New Features in watchOS 8

Features that are available right now in the watchOS 8 beta include:

  1. A new Mindfulness app replaces the former Breathe app, incorporating those features while also adding a new Reflect mode that offers guided meditations.
  2. New Find Items and Find Devices apps allow you to track AirTags and other Find My network items, along with your other Apple devices. This brings previously missing capabilities from the iPhone Find My app to the Apple Watch.
  3. A new Portrait Watch Face that lets you pull Portrait Mode photos from your library and display them with some neat new effects, including placing the digital clock behind the subject.
  4. Multiple improvements to Messages now make it much more usable on the wrist, including the ability to edit text in-line with Scribble, add emojis to scribbled and dictated messages, and a new app shelf, so you can add GIFs and other images directly from the Apple Watch.
  5. Sharing options in Photos and Music, allowing you to share your favourite pictures, songs, albums, and playlists directly from the Apple Watch without having to pull your iPhone out of your pocket.
  6. A new Contacts app lets you not only browse your contacts and pull up their info, but even edit contact details, and share contacts via Messages and Mail.
  7. Multiple timers are now available in the Timers app.
  8. More built-in apps also now take advantage of the Always-On Display. This includes Maps, Now Playing, Phone, Podcasts, Stopwatch, Timers, Voice Memos, and more. This means they can show actual information rather than blurring themselves out completely when your screen is in low-power mode.

How to Get watchOS 8 Right Now

Again, we can’t emphasize enough that if you choose to install the watchOS 8 beta, there is no going back to an earlier version of watchOS.

The current watchOS 8 beta appears to be reasonably stable, but your mileage may vary. Don’t install it unless you’re prepared to risk losing the use of your Apple Watch for at least two weeks — the time it will likely take before we see another public beta release.

That said, if you understand the risks, and you’re willing to take the plunge, here’s how to get your hands on the watchOS 8 Public Beta:

  1. Update your paired iPhone to the latest iOS 15 public beta if you haven’t already done so. watchOS 8 requires that you be using iOS 15 on the iPhone that your Apple Watch is paired with.
  2. Sign in to on your paired iPhone using Safari.
  3. From the menu at the top, tap Enroll Your Devices.
  4. Tap watchOS from the horizontal heading below the title area.
  5. Scroll down and tap on Download profile.
  6. The iPhone Watch app will open and show the new profile ready to be installed.
  7. Following the on-screen instructions to finish installing the profile. Your Apple Watch will restart once the profile has been fully installed.
  8. After your Apple Watch has finished rebooting, reopen the iPhone Watch app and check for updates as you normally would.

Just like the iOS public betas, once you’ve installed the watchOS beta profile, all future watchOS 8 public betas will show up as normal watchOS software updates, so you don’t need to repeat the above steps each time a new public beta is released.

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