A month or so ago, I wrote about what features I would like to see in watchOS 8, so when the watchOS 8 section of the keynote at WWDC 2021 rolled around, my ears instantly perked up.
Now that Apple has finally given us a first glimpse into watchOS 8, we know what features to expect to come to the best Apple Watch sometime this fall. While I didn't get everything on my personal wish list, there are a plethora of new features in watchOS 8 that might tickle your fancy. In no particular order, here are my five favorite features coming in watchOS 8.
It seems like such a silly thing to get excited about, but boy! I'm pumped.
watchOS 8 will finally let you set multiple timers on your Apple Watch so that you can have a countdown going for multiple things going on in your day-to-day life. You can label them, too. Say something like "Hey, Siri, set a 30-minute timer for laundry" or Hey, Siri, set a 15-minute timer for rice" and you'll see both timers in the Timer app. When the timers go off, you'll see the label of which timer on your Apple Watch screen, so you always know what timer you're dealing with.
It's a minimal improvement, but I use timers a lot, and I'm excited I won't need to set timers on multiple devices to keep track of all the things I need.
Sleep respiratory rate
While originally I was hoping for more detailed sleep tracking, monitoring your sleep respiratory rate is a great improvement to the Sleep app, and I'm excited it's coming in watchOS 8.
Your sleep respiratory rate is the measurement of your breaths per minute as you catch your zees, and tracking it will give you a better idea of how while you slept throughout the night. As someone who has a history of sleep apnea in his family, this can be an important measurement to help detect the condition. If your sleep respiratory rate is very high, it could indicate that you're having issues breathing at night, which is definitely something you should look into and talk to a medical professional about.
It's always nice to see Apple bringing features to the Apple Watch that let people keep an eye on all aspects of their health.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again — when technology becomes more accessible, everyone wins. It seems every year Apple brings out at least one new accessibility feature in its software that is meant to help even more people use their products, and this year they announced AssistiveTouch for Apple Watch.
AssistiveTouch aims to help people who are limb different use their Apple Watch by using gestures instead of interacting with the display. The motion sensors in the Apple Watch will allow you to answer calls, control an onscreen pointer, and even launch a menu of actions that can access the control center and more.
If you're non-disabled, it may be easy to overlook the importance of accessibility features. But as I learned when I broke my finger and started using Voice Control to help me use my iPhone and Mac, you never know when these features will come in handy for you.
While it may not be stress tracking or mood tracking, Apple did give us another tool to help us practice being mindful, which does help some people with their mental health.
The Breathe app is gone and is now rolled into the new Mindfulness app in watchOS 8. You can still do guided breathing exercises with Breathe in the Mindfulness app, but Apple also added the Reflect feature. Reflect prompts you with a question to concentrate on for a minute, and when you tap begin, it will display a "calming" animation to help you concentrate on the task at hand. It's a great little way.
Speaking personally, I practice meditation and mindfulness a lot to help manage my stress and anxiety, so I'm always on board with anything that helps me do that. I have been using the Breathe app in watchOS 7 a lot recently, so I'm excited to see if or how much Reflect helps me at all.
Answering messages on Apple Watch is always a great way to get back to people when using your iPhone isn't an option or inconvenient, but it's never been the best experience. watchOS 8 aims to change that by allowing you to use Scribble, emojis, and Dictation all in one message.
This is a great quality of life improvement that I believe I'm going to use a lot. I'm excited to see how well it works.
Honorable mention: Home app improvements
I literally have zero HomeKit-enabled devices, so I don't ever really use the Home app on my Apple Watch (or any device), but the new improvements to the Home app in watchOS 8 look like a good addition.
The redesigned Home app in watchOS 8 will make it easier to access the accessories and scenes you need and give you the ability to control accessories by room. Plus, if you have a HomeKit-enabled camera, you'll be able to check that camera on your Apple Watch so that you can answer your door right from your wrist.
I may not use it, but I'm happy it's coming to watchOS 8.
Which watchOS 8 features are you most excited for?
Let us know in the comments down below!
Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way.
Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.
Re: Messages, I'd rather have the ability to just not *have* messages on the Apple Watch. It doesn't really work very well at all and I don't think I'd ever use it unless I was stuck on a cliff or lost at sea because it's just too frustrating. Also, nine times out of ten you have your phone with you to answer the message. Please, just give us the ability to say "No thanks, I'd rather not (try to) use my Apple Watch for messages."
I’m in the opposite camp. Messages are one of the primary functions for my Apple Watch. PS: You can easily ignore messages by turning off notifications in the Apple Watch App
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