watchOS 9.4: Everything you need to know
Our roundup of what watchOS 9 brought and refined.
The latest update to Apple Watch arrived in September 2022, bringing new watch faces, a medication app, a refined display when working out, and more.
Releasing alongside the Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra, it's an update that's reliable and fun to use, regardless of what your use case is for the wearable.
The beta of watchOS 9.4 was recently made available, which mainly introduces new emoji that you can use on the keyboard, such as a donkey, a shaking head, a comb and more.
However, we've put together a guide that showcased what was new in watchOS 9, and which models of Apple Watch it works with.
What Apple Watches can run watchOS 9
With watchOS 9, it finally ended support for the Apple Watch 3. However, every model that supersedes this model can run watchOS 9, which are:
- Apple Watch Series 4
- Apple Watch Series 5
- Apple Watch Series 6
- Apple Watch Series 7
- Apple Watch Series 8
- Apple Watch Ultra
- Apple Watch SE
- Apple Watch SE (Second-Generation)
When was watchOS 9 released?
watchOS 9 was released on September 12, 2022, alongside iOS 16. Since then, there's been a bunch of updates released (opens in new tab) that introduced bug fixes and new emojis that users could also access on other Apple devices as well, with watchOS 9.4 currently in beta testing.
New and refined watch faces
With every new watchOS release, there are traditionally new watch faces, and 9 gave a bunch of new ones again. A redesigned Astronomy face was introduced, which would update the position of the Earth and the state of the weather where you were.
A Lunar watch face gives you the exact time relative to the phases of the moon while enabling you to add a bunch of complications around the time.
Playtime was created in collaboration with Chicago-based illustrator and artist Joi Fulton, where floating numbers with legs would fall when the hours and minutes would change, in front of a colorful background that looks like confetti.
A Metropolitan watch face is reminiscent of the classic watch faces of the sixties, where you can add complications to the four corners while being able to change the numbers as you turn the Digital Crown.
However, the Apple Watch Ultra also brought a unique watch face (opens in new tab) called Wayfinder. This is a face that's also reminiscent of the heavy sports watches that show detailed depth and exercise data, and there's also an all-red color that almost looks luminous.
On top of these new watch faces, Apple also updated some old watch faces (opens in new tab) as well.
For the Portrait watch face, you can now use Portrait faces with your pets — such as cats and dogs — as well as landscape photos that you can easily adjust in the Watch app.
As for Modular, Modular Compact and XLarge, it offers even more customization with fullscreen backgrounds that can be solid colors or gradients.
Workout app updates
Plenty of updates arrived to the Workout app in watchOS 9, which were aimed at providing richer metrics alongside a better view of your performance, so you can really tell how much of a sweat you're breaking.
watchOS 9 is also able to use your heart rate data to show you the target heart rate zones you are currently in, as well as how close you are nearing to another lower or higher zone.
Plus, these heart rate zones can be automatically created using your personalized health data, or you can manually set them if you have specific zones you want to ensure you are hitting.
New custom workouts
The Workout app in watchOS 9 also saw the ability to allow you to create custom workouts that have structured intervals, meaning you can include rest intervals you want between sets, reps, or whatever you are doing.
Finally, for all your triathletes out there, watchOS 9 has a Multisport workout type that can track swimming, running, and biking all in the same workout.
Not only can it track it all in the same workout, but it can also automatically detect when you switch between swimming, running, and biking, by using the Watch's motion sensors to recognize your movement patterns.
New metrics for runners
If you're an avid runner, you'll be pleased to know that watchOS 9 includes even more trackable metrics in running workouts so you can really get a sense of how you're performing.
Some of these new metrics include Stride Length, Ground Contact Time, and Vertical Oscillation. You can track these new metrics in the Health app on your iPhone, where you can see these trends change over time.
On top of that, you also have the ability to race against yourself, choosing either your best or last result, meaning if you're training for a certain time, you can easily see if you're on pace, exceeding pace, or lagging behind.
Kickboard detection when swimming
Using the sensors aboard your Apple Watch, watchOS 9 can detect when you are using a kickboard automatically, alongside classifying the stroke type in your workout summary.
Swimmers can also track their SWOLF score, which will make tracking their laps in a pool much easier.
Fitness Plus updates
While Fitness Plus already is a great way to get coached workouts, watchOS 9 introduced on-screen guidance in addition to the trainer coaching to help you get more out of the workouts.
watchOS 9 also introduced the ability to stream workouts onto third-party devices that are compatible with AirPlay and display on-screen metrics, meaning you don't need to have an Apple TV to use your TV for Fitness Plus.
As long as your TV supports AirPlay, watchOS 9 should be able to show you your on-screen metrics just fine.
Sleep Stages in the Sleep app
Sleep tracking was much improved in watchOS 9 in 2022, by using both the accelerometer and heart rate sensor in your Apple Watch to detect when you're in REM, Core, or Deep sleep.
All your sleep stage data is viewable on your Apple Watch using the Sleep app, and you can view more detailed breakdowns of your time asleep. Plus, additional metrics such as heart rate and respiratory rate will be available on your iPhone in the Health app to help keep track of your sleeping patterns.
Apple has long been proud that the Apple Watch ECG app can identify potential signs of atrial fibrillation (AFib) because, left untreated, it can lead to some severe — even deadly — complications.
In watchOS 9, if you've been diagnosed with AFib, you'll be able to can turn on the new AFib History feature, which the FDA has approved for those who are 22 years or older and have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.
AFib History also provides an estimate of how frequently a user's heart rhythm shows signs of AFib and will even send weekly notifications. Plus, you can view a detailed history in the Health app on your iPhone.
If you find yourself taking lots of medications — or just a few medications you really want to track closely — watchOS 9 has a new app called Medications.
This allows you to log your medications right on your Apple Watch or through the health app on your iPhone. Plus, you can even set up personalized medication schedules and reminders to always ensure you take your medications correctly and at the right time. You can even view detailed information about your medications in your health app on your iPhone.
In the U.S., the Medications app will also help alert you of any important interactions you should know about with the medication you are taking.
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Daryl is iMore's Features Editor, overseeing long-form and in-depth articles and op-eds. Daryl loves using his experience as both a journalist and Apple fan to tell stories about Apple's products and its community, from the apps we use everyday to the products that have been long forgotten in the Cupertino archives.
Previously Software & Downloads Writer at TechRadar, and Deputy Editor at StealthOptional, he's also written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider (opens in new tab)', which tells the story of the beginnings of Lara Croft and the series' early development. He's also written for many other publications including WIRED, MacFormat, Bloody Disgusting, VGC, GamesRadar, Nintendo Life, VRV Blog, The Loop Magazine, SUPER JUMP, Gizmodo, Film Stories, TopTenReviews, Miketendo64 and Daily Star.
- Luke FilipowiczStaff Writer