Five new watchOS 5 features you need to check out now

watchOS 5 is filled to the crown with great new features to keep you connected, active, and healthy. We have a full preview posted, but over the last few months, I've come across a few of them that I think really stand out. Here's what they are, and why I think they're so cool.

1. Walkie-talkie

You know that old joke about the couple or family who are sitting in the same room, but using an in-game chat to communicate? Well, the new walkie-talkie feature in watchOS 5 isn't that. It's the opposite.

Where, previously, I've been visiting friends and family and had to shout across rooms and up and down floors to try to find out where they were, now I just hit the walkie-talkie button and ask. It's quick, it's clean, and it's FaceTime Audio-level encrypted, so it's also private.

I even used it at Pokémon Go Fest Chicago to find out where one of the people I was playing with had gotten off to.

And, yeah, I can't wait to try it at Disneyland, too.

2. Stop spot

I love Workouts on watchOS. But, I often forget to start them, to stop them, or both. That results in me missing out on credit, or getting credit for activity so trivial, my fitness friends immediately text back with their best trash talk ... or junk food emoji (yeah, I start at that).

With watchOS 5, if I start working out but don't start a Workout, it taps me and gently reminds me to start the clock. And when I finish, and go for the water before I stop the clock, it gently taps me and reminds me to do that as well.

I love it when my Watch works as assisted memory.

(If I was a better runner I'd be all over the new pace and cadence option in running workouts as well.)

3. Move improve

Apple Watch Activity Competition

Apple Watch Activity Competition (Image credit: iMore)

It took me a while to figure out this one but. when I, did I smiled so wide: Apple is continuously tweaking the algorithm it uses to detect and credit movement and the latest one finally gives some credit for fidgeting.

Now, I'm a fidgeter. Whether I'm standing or sitting, I'm never static. I bounce. I sway. I step. I spin. And for the last little while, I've been getting credit for all of it. It might seem minor but it all adds up. (Especially when you're in one of the new fitness competitions and it's super close!)

It's not enough to fill a ring, of course, but it's certainly enough to make my time at my standing desk especially worthwhile.

So, if you feel like you've been getting extra credit, that's the reason why.

4. Web heds

watchOS didn't originally include WebKit, the HTML rendering engine that powers Safari on Mac and iOS. That meant, if you hit a link in Mail or Messages, you pretty much hit a wall.

watchOS 5, though, can render those links just fine. Well, even — optimized specifically for the Watch display.

It doesn't give Watch a browser, but it does give Mail and Messages a much more complete experience.

5. Heart smarts

I'm going to keep saying this until it's taken for granted. Apple Watch is the most important product Apple makes because it saves lives. Repeatedly.

New to watchOS 5 are slow heart rate alerts to go alongside the high heart rate alerts that have been offered for a while now.

Coming later this year in the U.S., irregular heart rate alerts will join them and, for those with Watch Series 4, single pad equivalent ECG.

It's not just incredible. It's commendable.

Bonus: Siri Shortcuts

No joke: Siri Shortcuts are the next step towards the future of voice and machine learning interface. And all those Siri Shortcuts you set up on your iPhone and iPad are also immediately accessible to you via the Siri watch face or raise-to-Siri on your Apple Watch.

You haven't lived — in the future, at any rate — until you've told your Watch it's Coffee Time or you're Homeward Bound.

It's an especially perfect fit for the brief, frequent, but important interaction model that so defines Apple Watch.

Your favorite watchOS 5 features?

I also love Podcasts, of course, the new Do Not Disturb and Rich Notifications options, Wi-Fi network selection, and so much more.

That's the thing about Watch. It's super personal so different features will appeal to different people with different lifestyles and at different times. So, if I missed any of your favorites, let me know.

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Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.