Improved Siri and new health and smart fitness features available
Apple is expected to launch a new watch later this year, and in preparation, it is also set to announce the fourth iteration of its watchOS operating system at WWDC 2017 on 5 June.
Here we round up all the latest news and rumours about watchOS 4, and break down its key features.
Apple watchOS 4 at a glance
- Release date is 19 September
- Previewed at this year's WWDC in June
- Boasts person-to-person payments and new goal rewards
- Developer preview available now ahead of autumn launch
Apple watchOS 4: Latest news
18/09/2017: WatchOS 4 released tomorrow - what are the best features?
WatchOS 4 hits the Apple Watch on 19 September and promises a raft of new features for users.
While the latest version isn’t as much of a massive upgrade compared to the previous one, it will come with a series of improvements.
For starters, the latest WatchOS tracks heart rates more closely. Current rates can be viewed via complications on the watch face. The Heart Rate app will also have more historical detail than ever before. It will warn users if it detects an elevated heart rates while a user is inactive.
The heart rate updates will also form part of a new initiative called the Apple Heart Study as part of ongoing medical research partnerships. This will anonymously send health data from participants through its HealthKit SDK straight to the research team at Stanford Medicine. This will currently run in the US only.
WatchOS 4 also supports several new activity types, such as high-intensity training, and the activities can be changed over very quickly. The Apple Watch can now be synced with gym equipment, such as bikes and treadmills, with a feature called 'Gym Connect'.
There are also improvements to Siri with a new watch face that displays information such as reminders, meetings and news. The feature also learns what to display based on what it thinks is most relevant to the user.
Users will also be able to browse apps in a list instead of the normal honeycomb grid. The multitasking menu is now vertical. A Now Playing complication brings up music controls directly; this replaces the previous Music complication.
In the Control Center, there's a new Flashlight icon. When activated, it can show either a bright white display, a red background, or a flashing light background.
Users can download WatchOS4 from 19 September.
13/09/2017: watchOS 4 to be released on 19 September
Apple announced yesterday that the new watchOS 4 will be available from 19 September.
The new OS has smart activity coaching, a redesigned workout app and there are new features for swimmers.
The company claimed the Apple heart rate sensor is the most used heart rate monitor in the world and has made enhancements to the heart rate app which now provides users with more information. This includes their resting heart rate and recovery heart rate which is how quickly the rate drops after a workout. The watch will also notify users when they have an elevated heart rate despite not being active, which can be useful for those with medical conditions.
The watch can now be paired with some gym equipment too, giving the device access to metrics such as speed, calories and heart rate to keep it in sync.
When working out, the Apple Watch automatically turns on do not disturb to keep users focused on their exercise instead of being notified of new emails.
Lastly, there is faster app responsiveness, more background modes and access to Core Bluetooth and Water Lock.
Apple also announced the Apple Watch Series 3, including UK prices for the device. Pre Orders are set to open on 15 September with the device available from 22 September, three days after the update is scheduled.
07/09/2017: New watchOS 4 icons indicate Apple is gearing up its wearable to support a wider variety of workouts.
The stick figure icons, spotted by iHelp BR, range from outdoor hiking to baseball and even equestrian sports.
While many of these will be covered by the Apple Watch 2's sensors, the publication speculates that some more niche sports will need new or improved sensors, which it predicts will arrive in the Apple Watch Series 3.
The icons would be available on watchOS 4, which is expected to launch this autumn - potentially alongside a Watch 3 device.
This adds weight to speculation that the Watch 3 will launch next week as part of Apple's 12 September Special Event.
You can check out the full list of activities at iHelp BR.
05/06/2017: Apple has revealed its latest watchOS operating system at WWDC 2017, showcasing some significant Siri integrations and improved fitness tracking.
The long expected watchOS 4, announced at Apple's WWDC event in San Jose on Monday, adds a number of new watch faces, including one that integrates Siri functionality to provide personalised updates.
When the watch is used to access apps, Siri will draw on default apps such as calendar entries, Alarms, Maps, as well as other third-party apps, to display relevant updates, for example upcoming meetings that may clash with your schedule.
Aside from the Siri watch face, a partnership with movie franchise Toy Story allows for an animated watch face featuring the characters, while another face will let you create some impressive kaleidoscope images from your photos.
The activity tracker has also received some added features, including challenges that reward you with some fancy screen animations for completing milestones. It will track performance over the course of a few days and recommend workouts to keep reaching new records. Apple has also been working on custom heart rate algorithms specifically designed for high intensity interval training.
WatchOS 4 also provides gym goers with the means to tether their Apple Watch to supported exercise equipment through a tool known as GymKit. This transfers data directly through an NFC connection, which should significantly improve the accuracy of recorded workouts.
Added Bluetooth functionality now lets you connect to other sports and health devices, such as kits for monitoring glucose levels while exercising.
Person-to-person payments, which was also demonstrated in the iOS 11 preview, will also make its way to watchOS 4, allowing users to transfer money to friends and family in a way that resembles the iMessage app.
The developer preview is now available, and the OS will be freely available to all in the autumn.
Images courtesy of Apple
Apple watchOS 4: release date and pricing
WatchOS 4 won't cost Apple Watch owners a penny; they simply need to download it as normal as with any other operating system update. The official release date is 19 September.
Apple watchOS 4: features
Apple Pay's person-to-person payments
WatchOS 4 will benefit from iOS 11's new person-to-person payments feature within Apple Pay, in a move that makes the Apple Watch more useful in people's daily lives. Not only can users pay with the contactless technology over the counter, but a simple text now sends money to a friend via Apple's Messages, or even using Siri. "When users get paid, they receive the money in their new Apple Pay Cash account and can use it instantly to send to someone or make purchases using Apple Pay in stores and apps, or transfer it to their bank account," explains Apple.
Once again, Apple has improved its Activity app with a new iteration. Users close to achieving a goal they've set will wake up to a notification encouraging them to hit it, or receive tips on how to match what they managed to do the day before. The app also introduces personalised Monthly Challenges tailored to the user.
WatchOS 4's new app, GymKit, fitness fanatics can pair their Watch with certain gym equipment like treadmills, indoor bikes, and more, with manufacturers currently signed up incuding Life Fitness and Technogym.
This means that data including burned calories, distance, speed, incline and pace will sync between the Watch and the machine, giving users a more accurate understanding of their workout.
However, without a full list of participating manufacturers (and what gyms have that equipment), it's hard to know how useful GymKit will be in the short to medium term.
Apple Watch's Workout app gets a revamp in WatchOS 4 as well, introducing new features focused around high intensity workouts and those swimming lengths of the pool.
Workout can now combine multiple workouts for those training for events like triathlons, so they get their overall calorie consumption and time measurements.
Jeff Williams, Apple's chief operating officer, said: "We've created a truly individualized experience with the smartest Activity and Workout apps, the Siri watch face that shows you the information you need when you need it and we're seamlessly bringing users their favorite music right on the wrist."
Apple has redesigned the Watch's Music app to automatically sync your New Music Mix and Favorites Mix with your most-listened to tunes, with the aim of making those long runs and punishing workouts a little more enjoyable.
New watch faces and bands
For those who like to customise their Watch a little, Apple is bringing some new options in the latest operating system, with a range of characters from the Toy Story movies, letting people choose between Woody, Jessie and Buzz to adorn their wrists. Another watch face, dubbed Kaleidoscope, turns your cover image into a kaleidoscopic pattern that might end up distracting you on a particularly dull afternoon at the gym.
A new Siri watch face powers the display with information that changes depending on the time of day and a user's daily routine, pulling information from the Activity app as well as a user's calendar, alarm, maps and reminders - as well as Apple News headlines.
Summer-styled bands are available now to greet the season, including vibrant new Sports Bands, a yellow Classic Buckle and some Nike Sport Bands. A rainbow Pride Edition nylon band is also available.