At the WWDC keynote on June 7, 2021, Apple explained the new features of watchOS 8 and upcoming changes to AirPods, Apple Home, Apple Health and Privacy. Here’s a quick look at the key changes.
When will watchOS 8 be available?
Apple released a developer beta of watchOS 8 on June 7, 2021
As usual, you need to update iOS first in order to install it. watchOS 8 will be compatible with the following models, although not every new feature will be available on older models:
- Apple Watch Series 3
- Apple Watch Series 4
- Apple Watch Series 5
- Apple Watch SE
- Apple Watch Series 6
RELATED: Check for Apple Watch updates
What’s New in watchOS 8
New portrait face, changes in Photos app
- Face Portrait: Apple seems especially proud of a new watch face based on portrait mode photos taken from your iPhone. It apparently uses depth data from portrait photos to generate a multi-layered moving effect.
- Other photo improvements: The Photos app in watchOS 8 now supports highlights from your memories and features Photos synced to your iPhone. It also introduces a new grid view and you can now share photos via Messages and Mail right from your Apple Watch.
“Breathing” becomes “Mindfulness”
- In watchOS 8, the Breathe app becomes the Mindfulness app. Along the way, it’s getting new breathing visualizations, a new Reflect feature that lets you focus on a “short, thought-provoking theme,” and a daily count of how much time you’ve spent breathing and reflecting (with Mindful Minutes).
Support for Focus
- To match the introduction of the new Focus feature in iOS, iPadOS, and macOS, Watch OS 8 will also support Focus, allowing for custom context-based notification controls. You can also share your current Focus status in Messages on your Apple Watch when people try to contact you.
RELATED: watchOS 8 brings more health features, photos and timer improvements
Sleep, Workout, Home, and Wallet Changes in watchOS
- Respiratory rate in sleep: In watchOS 8, sleep tracking now tracks your breathing rate by counting your breaths per minute. As usual, this new sleep data feeds into the Health app to help you understand trends over time.
- New workouts: In Workout, watchOS 8 introduces two new workout routines: Pilates and Tai Chi, based on the 2000-year-old practice.
- Improvements in the Home app: In the Home app, you can now view the status of all your Home devices at the top of the screen, access your scenes faster, and see all your security cameras in a new Camera Room. Home also suggests smart actions related to Home events, such as suggesting unlocking a door when someone rings the bell.
- Digital keys: With the Wallet app in watchOS 8, you can now store a digital key to your home, your government ID, and other types of IDs and keys in your Apple Watch.
AssistiveTouch, other improvements
- Assistive Touch: In a major development for accessibility, watchOS 8 now supports AssistiveTouch, allowing people to interact with their Apple Watch using gestures and an on-screen pointer.
- Other watchOS improvements: watchOS 8 also includes a new Contacts app (for editing contacts directly on your watch), severe weather notifications, setting multiple timers at once, real-time audio levels for headphones, and a device finder that lets you find missing Apple gadgets like AirPods. find.
RELATED: Which Apple Watches will get watchOS 8?
What’s New with AirPods
Starting with iOS 15, Apple is introducing several new features for AirPods. Here are a few.
- Conversation amplification and ambient noise reduction: If you have AirPods Pro, Conversation Boost helps you hear the person right in front of you thanks to beamforming technology. You can also reduce ambient noise with a slider on your iPhone.
- To announce notifications: In iOS 15, Siri can read important notifications and shopping lists through your AirPods. You can disable the feature by selecting “Do not disturb” on your iPhone. It is also compatible with the new Focus feature.
- Find my improvements: You can now find your AirPods Pro and AirPods Max using the Find My feature in iOS 15. This is done by reading a Bluetooth beacon and forwarding it through the Find My network. A new proximity view in the Find My app helps you know when you’re getting close. You can now also receive a divorce notification on your iPhone if you leave your AirPods behind.
- Spatial audio with tvOS: Spatial Audio (Apple’s dynamic, three-dimensional sound technology) is coming to tvOS this fall. It works with AirPods Pro and AirPods Max to track your head movements to change the sound realistically.
RELATED: AirPods Get Convo Booster, Audible Notifications & More With iOS 15
What’s New in Apple’s Home and Health Initiatives
- Improvements in the Apple Home system: Apple unveiled many new Home features across various devices, including a Home key feature to unlock your door with an iPhone or Apple Watch, ask Siri on HomePod Mini to watch a show on your Apple TV, watch TV with friends thanks to SharePlay, personalized Apple TV recommendations for family watching, and a new way to view cameras on Apple TV, and support for Siri in third-party HomeKit accessories.
- HomePod Mini as speakers: You’ll soon be able to use HomePod Minis as wireless speakers for your Apple TV.
- Personalized Speech Recognition: HomePod Mini supports multi-person voice recognition for custom voice commands.
- Stable walking stability: In Health, Apple announced a new Walking Steadiness metric that measures how evenly you walk based on data from Apple Watch and iPhone motion sensors.
- Laboratory results: You can now also see interpretations of lab results in the Health app, trends of changing health statistics over time, and securely share your Heath app data with your doctor.
- Sharing health: Soon you’ll be able to set up Health Sharing in Apple Health to share health information with trusted family members. It will also help you monitor an aging parent remotely by viewing their health records.
RELATED: Apple Health lets you share data with family and doctors in iOS 15
What’s New in Apple’s Privacy Initiative?
Apple is committed to telling the world it takes privacy seriously, and new privacy features across all of its devices seem to agree with that statement. Here are some of the key new privacy initiatives and features Apple announced at WWDC 2021.
- Email Privacy Security: Mail now blocks invisible tracking pixels and hides your IP address and location when you open emails.
- App Privacy Report: On several Apple devices, you can see a timestamp log of which apps have access to privacy-sensitive features over time. You can also see which third-party domains each app has contacted. This is big.
- Speech Recognition on Device: Apple made a commitment to do as much speed recognition as possible directly on your Apple device (when possible with faster iPhones, for example) to avoid sending audio over the internet. This also speeds up Siri response time in some cases.
- Account recovery: In Apple’s new operating systems, you can add one or more recovery contacts for your Apple ID. You can call a friend to get a code that will give you access to your account if you get locked out.
- Digital Legacy Program: Soon, you’ll be able to set up a Legacy contact for your Apple ID who can access your account in the event of your death.
- iCloud+: Apple has introduced a new service called iCloud+, which includes a number of important new privacy-related features, packed into one regular subscription fee.
- Private Relay (iCloud+): This VPN-like feature allows you to browse Safari in a more secure, private way through multiple encrypted relays.
- Hide my email (iCloud+): Apple uses this feature to generate a unique random email address that forwards emails to your personal email address. Create as many as you want and delete them at any time.
- Unlimited HomeKit Secure Video Cameras (iCloud+): Normally, iCloud users can only access five cameras per account. If you are an iCloud+ member, that limit will disappear completely.
This list of changes is just a taste of what’s to come, so keep an eye out for iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey too to see where Apple is headed in the future.
RELATED: What’s New in iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey