Apple announces watchOS 8 at WWDC 2021

Apple Watch Series 6 Apple Watch Se
Apple Watch Series 6 Apple Watch Se (Image credit: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Apple just announced watchOS 8.
  • It's all about health and activity tracking.

Apple just announced watchOS 8 complete with a ton of new features with a heavy focus on health as you might imagine. There's a lot going on, so let's dive in.

Just like iOS 15, watchOS 8 is getting new Wallet improvements that will include access to things like ID cards, keys, and more.

First announced at WWDC in 2020, Ultra Wideband support now arrives for digital car keys on Apple Watch Series 6. Apple Watch wearers can securely unlock their car from a distance and start it from the driver's seat. This fall, users can also add keys for their home, office, and hotel to Wallet, and tap their Apple Watch to unlock. Later this year, beginning with participating states in the US, users will be able to add their driver's license or state ID to Wallet. Select TSA checkpoints will be the first place users can begin using their digital ID.

Apple's making it easier to be mindful with a new Reflect feature, while the Breathe app is improving with a new animation, look, and feel. There's a new Mindfulness app that will be home to mindfulness features.

Now more than ever, people are recognizing the importance of finding small moments in their day to be more mindful. In watchOS 8, the Breathe app becomes the Mindfulness app, featuring an enhanced Breathe experience, plus a new session type, Reflect. Reflect offers a mindful intention to focus on for as little as one minute that can be done anywhere and at any time. Each Reflect session welcomes the user with a unique, thoughtful notion to consider that invites a positive frame of mind. For example, the user may see something like "Recall a time recently when you felt a sense of calm. Bring that feeling into this moment," or "Reflect on one thing you're grateful for and think about why you appreciate it so much." Both the Breathe and Reflect experiences also offer tips to help users get more from each session and feature beautiful new animations.

Apple's sleep tracking is changing as well, with support for tracking your respiratory rate while you're asleep.

Over in the Workouts app, new workout types have been added including martial arts and palates. There are now more ways than ever to keep fit and use your Apple Watch while you're at it. A new Artist Spotlight series is being added, offering new workouts featuring Lady Gaga, Leith Urban, and more.

watchOS 8 introduces two new popular workout types that are beneficial for both physical fitness and mindful movement: Tai Chi and Pilates. These new workout types are supported by powerful, validated custom-built heart rate and motion algorithms to provide users with accurate metrics.

Watchos 8 Tiles

Watchos 8 Tiles (Image credit: Apple)

In terms of your Apple Watch face, Apple is adding new photo support called Portraits Watch Face that will focus on photos and create depth that can be adjusted using the watch's Digital Crown. The Photos app has had some love as part of all of this, getting a redesign with featured photos, favorites, and more. It's easier than ever to share photos via email and messages thanks to improved sharing from within the Photos app. Oh, and you can now add GIFs when sharing images as well!

The Photos face is the most popular Apple Watch face, and watchOS 8 introduces new ways to view and engage with users' favorite photos right from their wrist. The new Portraits watch face brings to life stunning portrait photos shot on iPhone with an immersive, multilayered effect, intelligently recognizing faces in photos and cropping in to highlight the subject. The Photos app is also redesigned, offering new ways to view and navigate collections, Memories and Featured Photos now sync to Apple Watch, and photos can be shared through Messages and Mail with the new Share Sheet.

Apple also confirmed that watchOS 8 will finally get support for multiple timers, while next-hour precipitation is also coming to Apple Watch for the first time.

Apple also confirmed that a developer beta will be available later today, while a public beta will run from next month. Everyone else will get in on the act this fall.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.