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watchOS 9: Everything you need to know about the next big Apple Watch update

New faces, features, and metrics for users who want to get even more out of their wristwear.
June 7, 2022
An Apple Watch Series 7 checks for available software updates while resting on its charger.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

Apple’s watchOS 9 promises new features, updates, and personalization for the Apple Watch. We got a glimpse of what users will find on board at WWDC 2022. The big picture is a mixed bag of advanced running metrics, new activity features, medication reminders, and more. A closer look hints at what might be coming (and going) in terms of devices. Find out what to expect from watchOS 9 and everything you need to know about the company’s upcoming offerings.

What’s new in watchOS 9?

Five Apple Watches display upcoming features of watchOS 9.

According to Apple, watchOS 9 will upgrade your device’s connectivity and help you tap into your health and fitness. The new software will make sharing content and images easier, elevate your training analysis, and add new tools to your wellness journey. Users will also find a refresh of some existing features including Apple’s Podcasts app and its Siri UI.

Sleep tracking

A user adds a third-party sleep tracking app to their Apple Watch Series 7.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

To start, Apple is finally getting sleep stages. We’ve been a bit critical of Apple’s painfully basic sleep tracking in the past so this is a big step in the right direction. Users will also find more resources about sleep stages in the health app. At first glance, the refresh looks an awful lot like Fitbit’s sleep data. Let’s hope it’s just as accurate.

AFib history

An iPhone and Apple Watch display the new AFib History feature available in watchOS 9.

Similarly, watchOS 9 will bring more guidance and resources to heart rate tracking. For users who have been diagnosed with AFib, the Apple Watch will track time spent in AFib and allow users to monitor their AFib history. There will also be even more related tools and resources in the health app.

Medication reminders

An Apple Watch displays the new Medication app available in watchOS 9.

For streamlining many individuals’ daily experiences, watchOS 9 brings the Medications app for logging, tracking, and managing prescriptions. The app features medication reminders and allows users to set a medication schedule. The app will even alert users to noteworthy interactions if they are taking multiple drugs.

Workout app improvements

An Apple Watch user illustrates how the device can now measure new running metrics including oscillation.

Fitness tracking is one of the Apple Watch’s most popular uses. To elevate the experience, watchOS 9 is bringing new training experiences, advanced metrics, and more comprehensive workout views.

  • Running: For runners, watchOS 9 introduces three new running metrics for a more advanced training experience. These include running oscillation, stride length, and ground contact time. Additionally, users will be able to set goal times for specific distances and compete against personal bests on repeated routes.
  • Swimming: Apple Watch users can now track their SWOLF score and view their SWOLF average for each set in a given workout. Additionally, watchOS 9 adds Kickboard detection for pool workouts.
  • Views, metrics, and customization: Users will be able to check more on-screen metrics including segments, splits, and elevation, as well as new heart rate zones and power metrics. The new software also introduces workout customization plus new alerts to guide users mid-workout. These alerts will be available for pace, power, heart rate, and cadence.
  • Multi-sport mode: A new multi-sport mode will automatically determine when you are transitioning from one sport to another during a triathlon or other multi-sport training and events.
  • Cardio Recovery: Users can now monitor their cardio recovery after an outdoor walk, run, or hike, as well as track this metric over time in the Health app.

These upgrades to the Fitness app are not all features that are completely new to wearables. Garmin, for example, offers in-depth running metrics on many of its watches. However, the update will certainly add depth to the device and make the Apple Watch an even stronger competitor in the wearables market. Plus, Apple announced that the Fitness app will be made available to all iOS users, not just those with an Apple Watch.

Other new features

  • QWERTY keyboard: Support for French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish.
  • Family Setup: New support for the Home app.
  • Quick Actions: Allow more actions with the double-pinch gesture.
  • Apple Watch Mirroring: Increased accessibility for those with physical or motor disabilities.
  • Redesigned Dock: Prioritizes in-use apps.
  • Reminders app: Add or edit date, time, location, tags, and notes.
  • Calendar: Create new events from your Apple Watch and access a week view as well as updated existing calendar views.
  • New APIs: CallKit and share sheet support, access to Photos picker, and the ability to integrate watchOS apps with Apple TV.

Which watches will get watchOS 9?

A user showcases the Apple Watch Series 7 on their wrist.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

watchOS 9 will only be compatible with Series 4 or later. It is also expected to be available on the Watch Series 8 and potentially a new Watch SE, both of which are expected to launch later in 2022.

No, the Apple Watch Series 3 will not be eligible for watchOS 9. The five-year-old device is still available on Apple’s website but it will probably be retired in the fall of 2022.

When will watchOS 9 be available?

Apple’s watchOS 9 is officially on the books, with a beta version set to reach developers in July. The final version of the new software will reach the public this fall alongside the Apple Watch Series 8.

Does watchOS 9 have new watch faces?

Users will be introduced to four new watch faces when watchOS 9 launches this fall.

A new watchOS wouldn’t be complete without fresh faces. For watchOS 9 these include four new looks:

  • Astronomy: An upgrade to the existing astronomy face, this version is beefed up to take advantage of more real estate. The face also now shows current cloud coverage.
  • Lunar: This watch face celebrates the cultural practice of using the lunar calendar to observe holidays and special events.
  • Metropolitan: Featuring a new, dynamic font, this option is reminiscent of an analog watch face and can be customized in many colors.
  • Playtime: An artist-designed animated watch face, Playtime features cute numeral characters that take a nap when you’re done checking the time.

Additionally, the new software adds more complications and banner notifications. For ease of use beyond the watch face, watchOS 9 allows users to pin active apps to the top of their dock.

See more: How to change your Apple Watch face

While we’re still running on rumors about what devices to expect from Apple this fall, a peek at what’s in store for watchOS 9 offers some insight. We’re likely to see Apple’s usual move of minor upgrades to the user experience. Users hoping for more exciting or out-of-the-box upgrades will just have to keep their fingers crossed.