10 new Apple Watch features most owners get for free

Apple is giving most existing Apple Watch owners a whole collection of new features with its OS upgrade.

Apple, Apple Watch, iOS, watchOS 6
Apple

Apple offers most Apple Watch users 10 brand-new features with watchOS 6, which should also run faster than previous versions of the OS.

How to install the new watchOS

You must be using an iPhone 6S or later running iOS 13 to upgrade your Apple Watch to watchOS 6 (which arrives later today). You should also backup your data before you follow these steps:

  • Connect both the phone and watch to power. (Apple Watch needs to be on 50% power and connected to power for this to work.)
  • Open the Watch app on your iPhone.
  • Tap General, then choose Software Update.
  • The new watchOS update process should be listed there, tap it to begin the process.
  • You’ll need to keep both the phone and the watch within a few feet of each other during the upgrade, which can take a while.

Once that's done and you're running watchOS 6, you'll find new features.

The current Apple Watch scene

The new Apple Watch Series 5 (from $399) with its always-on display seems to be getting positive reviews. And if you’re using a Series 3 or 4, the new operating system delivers a much-improved experience, just like owning a new watch.

As noted, Apple will release watchOS 6 (and iOS 13) today with the Apple Watch Series 5 and iPhone 11 range on sale in stores beginning tomorrow.

The company is offering the new OS to all currently supported Apple Watch models (ie, not the Series 0 versions), but it won’t ship for Series 1 and 2 models until later this fall. You'll need iPhone 6S or later running iOS 13 or later to install the upgrade.

The company says 75% of Apple Watch buyers are completely new to the wearable, which suggests both that the market is growing and that Apple now has a pool of existing customers who may choose to upgrade in future.

That pool will likely grow, now that the company sells the entry-level model of Series 3 watch for $199.

So, what’s new in the new OS?

You get new watch faces

For reasons no one really understands, Apple continues to resist demand to introduce a watch face store, preferring instead to drip feed new watch faces inside each OS iteration.

The new OS maintains this tradition introducing Modular Compact, Solar Dial, California, Gradient, Numerals Mono, and Numerals Duo faces, though not all of these work on every watch model.

One more timekeeping improvement: You can also ask the Taptic engine to tap the time on your wrist, or hold two fingers on your watchface to make it tell you the time audibly.

[Also read: How to use Apple’s 6 cool new watchOS 6 tools]

You’ll know when you’re turning into a couch potato

Apple has made several improvements in its health app, but the introduction of Activity Trends will offer even more insight into your activity levels.

Activity Trends shows your exercise, stand minutes, distance, cardio fitness and movement trends over the last 90 days compared to the previous 365 days. That means you’ll be able to see when your fitness activity is declining. Activity will also provide you with coaching suggestions to get you back on track.

watch os 6 Apple

You get new Complications

Complications are those useful apps you can choose to make visible on your watchface. New Complications in watchOS 6 include current decibel levels, cellular strength, and chance of rain.

Putting women in control

The new Cycle Tracking app can be used to log daily information about menstrual cycles. Women can add flow information, record symptoms like headaches or cramps, and check cycle length and variation using a chart provided in your iPhone’s Health app.

As you enter the data, Health generates insights about you – and your Apple Watch will let you know when it thinks your next period may begin and when you should be at your most fertile.

watchos 6 faces Apple

Voice memos on your wrist

Want to record a quick memo to yourself? Apple has added a Voice Memos app. Open the app by tapping it on the App screen, or asking Siri, and then tap the large red button to begin recording. Tap the big button again to end the recording. The memo will be saved and made available across all your logged-in Apple devices. It can even be exported for transcription.

You get new apps…

Apple has added a Calculator and redesigned the Reminders app. The calculator has prebuilt controls to help you figure out tips and share bills. You can find out how these work here.

Apple has also introduced the Noise app, which listens to the noise around you and lets you know when it detects that the noise decibel level has reached a point at which it can damage hearing. When it does, Noise will tap you on your wrist to let you know.

You can recognize new songs

Apple’s recently acquired Shazam song recognition service is now built into your watch. This is very easy to use – just raise your wrist and ask what song is playing. It works even when you don’t have your iPhone, so long as you use a cellular-enabled watch to connect to the ‘Net.

apple watchos 6 noise Apple

An App Store anywhere

One of the biggest improvements is the inclusion of a new App Store on Apple Watch, so you can search for, and download, apps to your watch without an iPhone. You can search by name and check trending apps and download and install them directly to your device.

Apple has been moving to make the watch more independent of the iPhone since the Apple Watch Series 3, which introduced a cellular version. Today you can make calls, use and download apps and most everything else with your watch, no iPhone required. (You do still need an iPhone for upgrading the software.)

Developers can build new apps

Keep an eye on your app updates after the new operating systems ship. In part, this is because watchOS 6 includes new developer tools that let them build apps to stream music, radio, and podcasts. It is also now possible to build watch-only apps.

Apple made several developer-focused improvements in watchOS 6, including the provision of extended runtime to sensor data, which means you can reasonably predict new apps for various tasks, perhaps led by workout and mindfulness apps – Strava, for example.

You’ll also find Sign-in With Apple and Apple ID verification codes appear on Apple Watch when you need to log in to your Apple account.

You can browse the Web

Ask Siri to open your favorite website and you’ll be able to browse it on your watch, navigating the page using the Digital Crown. You can also search for websites and information using Siri on your watch.

And listen to audiobooks

Another new app, Audiobooks does precisely what it promises – lets you listen to your audiobooks using your watch. Titles are split between "On iPhone" and "Library" categories; the latter are items stored on your watch that you can hear even if you don’t carry your phone. Built-in controls let you move backward and forward in 15 second increments. You can also select chapters and control the playback rate and volume.

Please let me know if you find any other interesting or unknown features inside watchOS 6.

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Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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