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WatchOS 9’s New Features Will Make Apple Watch So Much More Competitive

This story is part of WWDC 2022CNET’s complete coverage from and about Apple’s annual developers conference.

The software that powers the AppleWatch is getting an upgrade. Apple announced Watch OS 9 Monday at its Worldwide Developers Conferencewhere it showcased new fitness features for runners, better sleep tracking, an app for tracking medications and new watch faces.

The announcement shows Apple’s focus on health and fitness as key selling points for the Apple Watch. The new sleep tracking and running metrics should help Apple close the gap in capability between its smartwatches and rival devices from companies like Fitbit, Samsung, Garmin and Oura. The update will start in the fall for the Apple Watch Series 4 and higher. A developer preview is available immediately, while a public beta will launch next month.


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With WatchOS 9, the Apple Watch will gain new metrics intended to help runners better understand their performance and reduce risk of injury. These include vertical oscillation, stride length and ground contact time. A new workout view will let you see more information at a glance, such as segments, splits and elevation.

Heart rate zones will give you deeper insight into the intensity of your workout in WatchOS 9. And a new multisport workout option will let triathletes easily switch between run, bike and swim tracking. Apple is adding a custom exercise option, too, that permits an interval workout that incorporates rest.

Apple is also improving its sleep analysis by bringing Sleep Stages to its smartwatches. As the name implies, Sleep Stages will tell you how much time you spent in REM, core and deep sleep. Fitness trackers from Fitbit, Samsung and other companies have previously offered this feature, so this addition should bring the Apple Watch up to speed.

Read more: Your Apple Watch Will Soon Actually Track Your Sleep

WatchOS 9 will bring some improvements to atrial fibrillation detection. The Apple Watch will now be able to provide more context with a new feature called AFib history, which tracks frequency and other trends related to the heart condition.

A new Medications app is coming to WatchOS 9. The app is meant to make it easier to log medicine and set regular reminders to take specific medicine and vitamins, even without an Apple Watch. You’ll be able to add medications by scanning a label or typing in the name manually. The app will show information about medication interactions too.

The update will bring four new watch faces and support for six new keyboard languages. The new watch faces are called Lunar, Playtime, Metropolitan and Astronomy. Other features include less distracting notifications when the Apple Watch is in use, new Quick Actions for answering calls or taking a photo with a double-pinch gesture and a redesigned dock that prioritizes apps currently in use.

New software updates for Apple’s major products are usually the centerpiece of WWDC. Apple uses its opening keynote as an opportunity to drum up excitement for new features and updates before the software arrives later in the year. Although most of the conference is taking place virtually this year, Apple hosted a special event for developers and students on Monday at its Apple Park campus.

Apple has maintained its leading position in the smartwatch industry. Apple accounted for 36.1% of smartwatch shipments in the first quarter of 2022, representing an increase from 35.9% in the same period last year, according to Counterpoint Research. Apple snagged 28.9% of basic watch and smartwatch shipments in the first quarter of 2022, according to a report from research firm Canalys.


Now playing:
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Sleep Stages Is Coming With Watch OS9


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To find out more about Apple’s major announcements at WWDCcheck out everything we’ve learned about iOS 16 and macOS Ventura.

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