Apple today seeded the first public beta of its upcoming watchOS 9 update to its public beta testing group, allowing non-developers to give the new watch software a good try ahead of its fall release.
The watchOS 9 public beta can be installed on an Apple Watch with the proper configuration profile installed from the Apple beta software website. Via the Watch app on the device’s attached iPhone, go to “General” -> “Software Update” to install the beta. The Watch should have at least 50% battery life, be connected to a charger, and be within the range of the iPhone.
The new watchOS 9 brings more watch faces to choose from, with richer complications with more information and opportunity for personalization. The updated Workout app brings advanced metrics, views, and training experiences inspired by high-performing athletes.
watchOS 9 also brings sleep stages to the Sleep app, and a new FDA-cleared AFib History feature provides deeper insights into a user’s condition. A new Medications app allows users to conveniently and discreetly manage, understand, and track medications.
The new watchOS brings richer metrics for measuring performance, as well as new training experiences to help users reach fitness goals. The familiar in-session display now uses the Digital Crown to rotate between easy-to-read Workout Views, so users can see important metrics for different training styles. Heart Rate Zones, which can be manually created or automatically calculated using personalized Health data, can be used to monitor the intensity of a workout. Interval training is an important part of any training plan, and in watchOS 9, the Workout app introduces Custom Workouts, which can be used to create a structured workout that can include work and rest intervals. New alerts, including pace, power, heart rate, and cadence, can be added to guide users throughout the workout.
Fitness+ workouts now display on-screen guidance in addition to trainer coaching to help users get the most out of workouts, including Intensity for HIIT, Cycling, Rowing, and Treadmill; Strokes per Minute (SPM) for Rowing; Revolutions per Minute (RPM) for Cycling; and Incline for walkers and runners in Treadmill.
Fitness+ subscribers without Apple TV can now use AirPlay to stream workouts and meditations with on-screen metrics to compatible third-party TVs and devices.
Users can create Wind Down and Bedtime schedules, as well as track their sleep to help them meet their goals. Sleep tracking in watchOS 9 provides even more insights with the introduction of sleep stages. Using signals from the accelerometer and heart rate sensor, Apple Watch can detect when users are in REM, Core, or Deep sleep.
Users who are diagnosed with AFib can turn on the FDA-cleared AFib History feature, allowing them to access an estimate of how frequently a user’s heart rhythm shows signs of AFib, receive weekly notifications to understand frequency and view a detailed history in the Health app. Users can also download a PDF with a detailed history of their AFib and lifestyle factors, which can easily be shared with doctors and care providers for more informed conversations.
The new Medications app on Apple Watch and iPhone helps users manage and track their medications, vitamins, and supplements, allowing them to create a medications list, set up schedules and reminders, and view information on their medications in the Health app. The Medications app on Apple Watch makes it easy for users to track medications anytime, anywhere.
Custom schedules can be created for each medication, whether it needs to be taken multiple times a day, once a week, or as needed, and users can set up reminders to help keep them on track. In the US, users can receive an alert if there are potential critical interactions with medications they have added to the Health app.
Additional watchOS 9 Updates
- Staying informed in the moment is a powerful part of the Apple Watch experience, and in watchOS 9, notifications have been redesigned to be less interruptive while still being impactful, arriving with new slimline banners when Apple Watch is being actively used.
- Family Setup now supports the Home app so a child can be invited as a member to control HomePod speakers and smart home accessories. They can also use home keys and hotel keys in Apple Wallet.
- With new Quick Actions on Apple Watch, users can do even more with a double-pinch gesture, including answer or end a phone call, take a photo, play or pause media in the Now Playing app, and start, pause, or resume a workout. This builds on the innovative technology used in AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch, which gives users with upper body limb differences the option to control Apple Watch with gestures like a pinch or a clench without having to tap the display.
- Apple Watch becomes more accessible than ever for people with physical and motor disabilities with Apple Watch Mirroring, which helps users control Apple Watch remotely from their paired iPhone. With Apple Watch Mirroring, users can drive Apple Watch using iPhone’s assistive features like Voice Control and Switch Control — so they can navigate Apple Watch by using their voice, sound actions, head tracking, and external Made for iPhone switches as alternatives to tapping the Apple Watch display. Apple Watch Mirroring uses hardware and software integration, along with advances built on AirPlay, to ensure users who rely on these mobility features can benefit from unique Apple Watch apps like Blood Oxygen, Heart Rate, Mindfulness, and more.
- The QWERTY keyboard on Apple Watch Series 7 adds support for French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese (Brazil), and Spanish (Mexico, Spain, Latin America).
- Apps that are actively in use are now promoted over the rest of the apps in the redesigned Dock, making it easier for users to quickly return to them.
- The Reminders app now lets users add or edit key details such as date and time, location, tags, and notes.
- Stay productive with the updated Calendar app by creating new events directly from Apple Watch. For the first time, users can access a Week view in addition to updated List, Day, and Month views to support more scrolling through calendar events.
- Cardio Recovery is a useful fitness metric that can be an indicator of cardiovascular health. Apple Watch now provides estimates of Cardio Recovery after an Outdoor Walk, Run, or Hiking workout, even when the workout does not reach peak intensity. This metric can be tracked over time in the Health app.
- New APIs allow developers to build best-in-class third-party apps, with CallKit and share sheet support, access to Photos picker, and the ability to integrate watchOS apps with Apple TV.
As usual, MacTrast and Apple both warn users to not install any betas on their daily driver Apple Watch, especially early versions of new operating systems. Instead, only install betas on a device set aside for testing purposes.