In what is becoming a trend, Apple’s announcements pertaining to its Watch have been impressive over the last couple of years. At the hardware event last year, we had noted how the Apple Watch Series 4 was the most exciting announcement. Yesterday’s WWDC 2019 keynote also showed us how focussed Apple is with the watchOS.
The latest update — watchOS 6 — comes with some brand new watch faces, a ‘Loud Noise’ detecting app, a menstrual cycle tracking feature and even its own App store among many other things. Apple is also making use of the larger display real estate offered by the Apple Watch Series 4 to incorporate more apps such as Calculator, new complications on the Watch and more.
We have a lot of ground to cover so let’s see what were some of the major announcements pertaining to watchOS 6.
Health and fitness features including a Menstrual Cycle Tracker
One thing that has differentiated the Apple Watch from the other smartwatches out there are the innovations it has done on the health and fitness sector. Last year we had seen the introduction of the ECG feature on the Apple Watch Series 4. With the watchOS 6, you get a new Cycle Tracking app for women which gives them the ability to log important information related to their menstrual cycles and see predicted timings for their next period as well as the fertile window. It will also be available in the Health app in iOS 13.
Apple will be making use of the onboard microphone of the Watch to let you know if there is any loud noise around you. Just like the heart rate tracker app, a Noise app will help you understand the noise levels around you in real time with the help of a decibel meter. If the noise levels cross 90 dB, you will get a notification.
The Activity Tracker is going to become a lot more contextual and will give you a trends report, comparing your current activity records with records from previous year and so on. “At a glance, the tab shows whether the trends are up or down for key metrics such as active calories, exercise minutes, walking pace and others. If the last 90 days of activity shows a downward trend relative to the last 365 days, the Activity app offers coaching to help the user get back on track,” says Apple.
New Watch Faces
This is a standard upgrade every year and we see five new updates this year. You get Modular Compact watch face, which shows three complications along with the watch dial. The super minimalist Gradient watch face shows a gradient change as the hands of the clock change. Numerals watch face shows you the time in the numeral form in various languages. Solar watch face lets you visualise the Sun’s path around the dial. The Pride watch face is self-explanatory.
App Store on Apple Watch
There are many apps that have a watchOS companion app, but it is quite cumbersome to look them up on the phone and then sync the downloads. Apple wants to make watchOS apps discovery a lot easier, so it has now added an App store on the watchOS 6. You can search for apps directly on your Watch either by typing out the app name, asking Siri or via dictation. For apps that are paid, you can double tap on the power button twice to make the payment. App developers can develop apps for the Apple Watch only and it would not need syncing with the iPhone. Apple demonstrated some Watch only apps such as Audiobooks, Calculator app and so on.
Audio improvements on watchOS
watchOS 6 will come with audio APIs for developers which will allow third-party apps to stream music, radio, podcasts directly on the Watch. So for instance, if you have a third party sports app, the audio API will let developers stream audio commentary via the Watch, without any need to have a synced iOS app of the same name. Voice memos app will also be available as a Watch only app helping you make quick voice notes without taking out your iPhone.
watchOS 6 will be released to developers this week and will see a public rollout sometime in September. watchOS 6 will be available on all Apple Watch models from Series 1 onwards, but obviously not all the features will be coming to all Watch editions. For instance, the modular compact watch face will only be available for Apple Watch Series 4.