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.

  • I fear people will use Walkie on speaker and it will be as insidious and rude as Push-to-Talk was in public.
  • It's a free country, complain to your government if you think speakers shouldn't be allowed in public places.
  • And there's something called public decorum. Unfortunately fewer, and fewer people respect it.
  • There is no rule for what classes as public decorum, you have your own idea of it, and everyone else has their own idea. I personally don't mind people using speakers outdoors so long as I can hear myself talk, people playing sound on speakers to me is no different than people talking in public, plus isn't that basically what Walkie Talkie is?
  • I agree that this could be annoying. Any technology can be used in the wrong way, we will just have to rely on people's decency and educate those who are willing to listen.
    Also, please don't mind those negative comments, some people can't add anything positive to any discussion.
  • Unfortunately my real life experiences show decency isn't sufficient. More and more people using speakerphone instead of earbuds on the subways and in public in general.
  • Again, this is up to the rules of the subway or public area you're in. Some subways or trains have quiet carriages. These places aren't libraries or examination rooms, they're not "supposed" to be quiet, and your idea of decorum, is different to the person next to you.
  • If you were referring to my comment, it wasn't negative, it's just truthful. xToddrick can't dictate what people should or shouldn't do in a public space, whether you see that as a negative or a positive.
  • And if Spock pinches you on the neck, all the better.
  • A public space is exactly what it says on the tin, it's for the public. They can do what they like, so long as they're not breaking the law or obviously being annoying. Playing sound out of speakers at a reasonable volume is not annoying to most, and there is no law against it
  • Just becuase apple says so, does not make it right Danny the great deflector
  • Apple didn't say so, no one said so, did you even read the comment thread?
  • Walkie-Talkie not working for wife and I. Same for colleague and boyfriend. Called support and they were clueless. Escalated it to engineering, and if past experience is any guide, that’ll be the last I’ll hear from them. Problem: we send invites to each other, but neither receives them. Invite cards remain gray.
  • I have the same issue. tried re-adding contacts and restarting watches and same issue. Presume it has something to do with how contacts are linked to AppleID, but don't know for sure. Have had issue with all/other contacts or just 1?
  • I'm pretty sad that the majortiy of new features I've been reading about for months do not show up on my series 2, which is still pretty quick and usable. Apple usually does a very fair job of describing exactly what new features will and wont work with different devices, but I still havnt found a compatibility list. OS5 also seems like the buggiest major WatchOS release I've encountered - installation was longer and weirder for me (and for my wife on her Series 3) multiple false starts and restarts, continuing long installation progress bars after notifications that installation was complete, etc. here's my incomplete list: no lift for SIRI (series 2 and below, but i swear apple never mentioned that)
    updated siri face doesn’t seem much more predictive
    notification grouping is nonexistent, and notifications are wonkier than ever - not sure i this is iOS 12 or watchOS 5 at fault
    auto workout detection seems like a no-show Walkie-Talkie is a complete mess - after 2 days of trying to connect to each other, deleting and resending invitations, that stupid little yellow icon blinking even after force quitting and restarting the watch, once it finally connected and we tried a few phrases back and forth my watch just sent out loud static until i restarted the watch again. No one cares about the stock app.
  • Notification grouping should work the same as on your iPhone on iOS 12, the default setting is to allow apps to choose what they want grouped, so Messages/WhatsApp for example will group messages by who they were from. I've heard about Walkie-Talkie having some issues, so I don't think you're alone there. And hey, don't diss the Stocks app, whilst not many people use the Stocks app, the people who invest in stocks will find it very useful
  • Either I haven't found someone willing to accept my invites or its not working on my Series 3 either. Sorry, i'm referring to walkie-talkie. Also, does 'Raise to Siri' work on older devices or just Series 4?
  • same here about walkie-talkie, but raise to siri works on my series 3 just fine
  • Podcasts support has been the best thing for watchos 5.
  • Anyone know when the advanced heart monitoring will be available in Canada?