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watchOS 9: Everything you need to know about Apple's latest update

New faces, features, and metrics for users who want to get even more out of their wristwear.

Published onJanuary 11, 2023

An Apple Watch SE 2 rests on its side, displaying the ASTROnomy watch face.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

Apple’s watchOS 9 brings new features, updates, and personalization to the Apple Watch. We first got a glimpse of what users would find on board at WWDC 2022 and have since been enjoying the new software on our devices. The big picture is a mixed bag of advanced running metrics, new activity features, medication reminders, and more. Find out what Apple brings to the table via watchOS 9 and everything you need to know.

What’s new in watchOS 9?

Five Apple Watches display upcoming features of watchOS 9.

According to Apple, watchOS 9 upgrade your device’s connectivity and helps you tap into your health and fitness. Hands-on, the new software makes sharing content and images easier, elevates your training analysis, and adds 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

An Apple Watch SE 2 rests on a white surface displaying a user's sleep stages.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

To start, Apple finally offers 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 and sleep analysis in the health app.

AFib history

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

Similarly, watchOS 9 brings 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 are also now more related tools and resources in the health app.

Medication reminders

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 even alerts users to noteworthy interactions if they are taking multiple drugs.

Workout app improvements

An Apple Watch SE 2 on a user's wrist display the Multisport workout mode.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

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

  • Multi-sport mode: A new multi-sport mode automatically determines when you are transitioning from one sport to another during a triathlon or other multi-sport training and events.
  • 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, are now 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 can 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 are available for pace, power, heart rate, and cadence.
  • 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 certainly adds depth to the device and makes the Apple Watch an even stronger competitor in the wearables market. Plus, Apple made the Apple Fitness Plus app 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 can access watchOS 9?

An Apple Watch Series 7 checks for available software updates while resting on its charger.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

Apple’s watchOS 9 is now available. In fall, 2022, the software launched alongside an exciting lineup of devices including the second-generation Apple Watch SE (2022), the Apple Watch Series 8, and a brand new rugged model, the Apple Watch Ultra. However, you do not need one of Apple’s newest devices to reap the benefits of its latest software. WatchOS 9 is compatible with any device Apple Watch Series 4 or later. Update your Apple Watch to access the latest features and tools available.

No, the Apple Watch Series 3 is not eligible for watchOS 9.

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

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