Introduced in June 2020, watchOS 7 is the newest version of the operating system that runs on the Apple Watch, and it will be released to the public in the fall.
watchOS 7 is a huge update that brings a number of notable health, fitness, and style features to the Apple Watch. First up, there’s a new Face Sharing feature to share your watch faces and install watch faces shared by other people, in apps, in Messages, on websites, and more.
Apple introduced a new Chronograph Pro watch face with a tachymeter, options to add complications to the X-Large Apple Watch face, and color filters for the Photos watch face. Apps can now offer multiple complications, so you can better customize your Apple Watch to your needs.
WatchOS 7 includes a new Sleep app that offers sleep tracking capabilities, providing sleep analysis in an easy-to-read chart. The Apple Watch uses the accelerometer to detect subtle movements associated with breathing, so it knows if you’re asleep or awake.
There’s a Wind Down feature that helps you establish a bedtime routine with shortcuts to things like dimming the lights and opening a meditation app, and a Sleep Mode that automatically turns off your screen and turns on Do Not Disturb.
When it’s time to wake up, the Apple Watch can play soft sounds or wake you with haptic vibrations, and it provides a weather report and battery level so you can get your morning started. You’ll get a reminder to charge when the battery is low, and a reminder when charging is finished to minimize time without your watch.
Apple added a new handwashing detection feature that listens for the sounds of running water and then starts a 20-second timer to help you wash your hands for the appropriate amount of time. Apple Watch can also send a notification to remind you to wash your hands when you get home.
Apple renamed the Activity app, and it’s now known as Fitness. To go along with the new name, there’s an updated interface and new workouts that include Dance, Functional Strength Training, Core Training, and Cooldown.
In the Maps app, Apple added directions for cyclists with maps that include elevation changes, stairs, bike lanes, and busy roads. You can search along your route for the first time, adding stops as you go if you need a bite to eat.
Siri provides spoken translations and can translate into 10 languages. All dictation is now done on-device, making it faster and more reliable. Siri Shortcuts can be accessed on the Apple Watch and added as complications.
watchOS 7 does more to protect hearing health with a weekly listening notification and an automatic Reduce Loud Sounds option that sets a max headphone volume to prevent hearing damage.
watchOS 7 is only compatible with the Apple Watch Series 3, Series 4, and Series 5 models, along with future Apple Watch models. It cannot be installed on the Apple Watch 1st generation, Series 1, and Series 2 devices.
At the current time, watchOS 7 is available for developers, but Apple plans to release a watchOS 7 public beta in July, which marks the first time a watchOS beta has been provided to public beta testers.
In the Photos watch face, there’s an option to add color filters to any picture, and there are more Pride rainbow watch face options.
A single Apple Watch app can now offer more than one complication, which allows for more customization options. If a surf app offers complications for swell size, water temperature, and wind speed, all of these can be added to the Apple Watch at once for a surf-themed Apple Watch face.
Apple has added new complications for Shortcuts, the World Clock, the new Sleep app, the Camera Remote app, and Moon phases. All of the new complications allow these features to open with one tap.
Watch Face Sharing
Watch face setups can now be shared with other people, so if you have a great Apple Watch setup you can share it with friends and family in Messages, in the Mail app, or online.
Watch faces can be downloaded from Messages or Mail, from websites, from social media, or from the App Store, with Apple’s editorial team providing watch face download recommendations.
The major new addition to the Apple Watch in watchOS 7 is the new Sleep app, which lets you wear your Apple Watch while you sleep to track how well you’re sleeping at night.
The Apple Watch uses its accelerometer to detect small movements associated with breathing that indicate sleep. Apple focused on allowing the Apple Watch to track sleep duration, which it says is the most important metric people need to be aware of.
The Health app provides a sleep analysis chart showing how much you’ve slept in the course of a day, a week, and a month.
The Apple Watch does not track other metrics that some sleep trackers cover, such as deep sleep, light sleep, REM sleep, and more. To help people increase total sleep time, Apple has added other new features such as Wind Down and sleep schedule options.
You can set up a sleep schedule on the Apple Watch that automatically turns on sleep mode and sends reminders ahead of when you need to go to sleep.
In sleep mode, the Apple Watch automatically turns on Do Not Disturb and keeps the screen from waking. These features are enabled for the entire sleep schedule that’s set up.
When it’s time to wake up, the Apple Watch can use a haptic alarm or a louder audible alarm, and it displays a weather report and battery information in the morning. If you wake up ahead of your alarm, the Apple Watch gives you the option to turn the alarm off.
Accompanying Sleep Mode is a new Wind Down feature that’s meant to help you establish a healthy bedtime routine to improve sleep duration.
Wind Down can offer shortcuts that help you relax, like opening a meditation app and dimming the lights.
The Apple Watch sends notifications when the Apple Watch needs to be charged and when it’s fully charged, so you can better monitor the daytime charging that’s required to use Sleep Mode.
You’ll get a notification if the battery is below 30 percent before going to bed, so you can make sure your Apple Watch has enough juice to last through the night.
Sleep Mode does use the battery at night, but as long as there’s time to charge in the morning while you get ready for the day, it doesn’t make a serious impact on battery life.
watchOS 7 introduces an automatic handwashing mode that can help you make sure you’re washing your hands for the recommended 20 seconds to get rid of germs.
Handwashing mode uses the Apple Watch’s sensors and microphone to detect handwashing sounds and movements, and then starts a 20-second timer. The countdown is shown in bubble-like letters, with haptic feedback and a “Well Done” message when handwashing is complete.
When you’re washing your hands, if the Apple Watch detects that you’ve stopped early, it encourages you to continue, and it can also provide reminders to wash your hands when you arrive home.
Other New Features
Hearing Health Improvements
Apple in watchOS 6 introduced the Noise app for alerting users when their environments are loud enough to harm their hearing health, and in watchOS 7, Apple is expanding those capabilities to earbuds and headphones.
The Apple Watch provides weekly listening notifications when a recommended safe weekly listening dose has been exceeded, and the Apple Watch lowers the volume of the connected headphones accordingly.
On iPhone, a weekly summary is available in the Health app with further details on how long you’ve listened to high-decibel sounds each week.
In watchOS 7 and iOS 14, the Activity app has been renamed Fitness, and it’s received a redesign. The updated Fitness app features four new workout options: Dance, Functional Strength Training, Core Training, and Cooldown.
The redesigned Fitness app on iPhone shows daily activity, workouts, awards, and activity trends all on one “Summary” page rather than having that information spread across several tabs.
As with iOS 14, the Maps app on the Apple Watch supports bike-friendly cycling routes. Bike directions let riders know where bike lanes are, which roads are busy, and where there are difficult elevation changes.
Cycling routes can be mapped with or without stairs, and routes with stairs let riders know when their bikes need to be picked up. Searching along a route is also now supported, so Maps users can add needed stops and then get right back to their original directions.
Siri provides spoken translations, so you can ask Siri to translate a word or a sentence and get it translated aloud so you can hear the proper pronunciation. Siri can translate to and from 10 languages, including Spanish, English, Japanese, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian.
Dictation in watchOS 7 is done on device, so all voice-based requests are faster, more reliable, and more private.
There’s a new Siri Shortcuts app on the Apple Watch in watchOS 7 for activating shortcuts on device, and shortcuts can be added as complications for one-tap access.
watchOS 7 can be installed on Apple Watch Series 3, Series 4, and Series 5 models. It is not compatible with the original first-generation Apple Watch, Apple Watch Series 1, or Apple Watch Series 2.
At the current time, watchOS 7 is available for developers, but Apple plans to release a watchOS 7 public beta in July, which will be the first time a watchOS beta has been provided to public beta testers.