watchOS 9: Everything you need to know

Watchos 9 Astronomy Watch Face
Watchos 9 Astronomy Watch Face (Image credit: Apple)

watchOS 9 is the next interaction of the Apple Watch software, and Appel has given all of us a sneak peek and what we can look forward to; here's everything you need to know about watchOS 9.

New watch faces

Apple announced four new Apple Watch faces for watchOS 9:

Astronomy: Completely redesigned and displays a continuously updating 3D model of the Earth, which will show cloud coverage around the world. Lunar watch face: Lunar depicts the relation between our normal calendar (Gregorian calendar) and the lunar calendar — important for many festivals in various cultures and religions around the world. Playtime: A wacky and interactive art watch face that was created in collaboration with Chicago-based illustrator and artist Joi Fulton. Metropolitan: A type-driven face that features custom numbers that change as users turn the Digital Crown.

On top of these new watch faces, Apple also updated some old watch faces as well.

Portrait face: You can now use Portrait faces with your pets — such as cats and dogs — as well as landscapes! Modular: Offers even further customization with fullscreen backgrounds that can be solid colors or gradients. Other watch faces like Modular Compact and XLarge also get this feature.

Workout app updates

Watchos 9 Heart Rate Zones

Watchos 9 Heart Rate Zones (Image credit: Apple)

Plenty of updates are coming to the Workout app aimed at providing richer metrics and a better view of your performance so you can really tell how much of a sweat you're breaking.

Heart rate zones in workout

watchOS 9 will be able to use the 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. Super important for lots of different types of training. Plus, the 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

Watchos 9 Workout Custom (Image credit: Apple)

The Workout app in watchOS 9 will 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.

Multisport workout

Watchos 9 Multisport (Image credit: Apple)

Finally, for all your triathletes out there, watchOS 9 will have 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 will also automatically detect when you switch between swimming, running, and biking by using the motion sensors to recognize your movement patterns.

New metrics for runners

Watchos 9 Running (Image credit: Apple)

If you're an avid runner, you'll be pleased to know that watchOS 9 will include 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. These new metrics will all be in the Health app, where you can see trends over time.

On top of that, you'll be able to 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 will be able to detect when you are using a kickboard automatically and classify the stroke type in your workout summary.

Swimmers will also be able to track their SWOLF score, which will make tracking your laps in a pool much easier.

Fitness+ updates

While Fitness+ already is a great way to get coached workouts, watchOS 9 will introduce on-screen guidance in addition to the trainer coaching to help you get more out of the workouts.

watchOS 9 is also bringing the ability to stream workouts onto third-party devices that are compatible with AirPlay and display on-screen metrics, meaning you will no longer have to have an Apple TV to use your TV for Fitness+. 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

Watchos 9 Sleep Stages (Image credit: Apple)

Looks like sleep tracking in watchOS 9 will provide even more insight into how you are sleeping at night with the introduction of Sleep Stages. By using both the accelerometer and heart rate sensor in your Appel Watch, watchOS 9 will detect when you are in REM, Core, or Deep sleep. All your sleep stage data will be viewable on your Apple Watch in the Sleep app, and you can even 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.

AFib History

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 will provide an estimate of how frequently a user's heart rhythm shows signs of AFib and will even send weekly notifications. Plus, you'll be able to view a detailed history in the Health app on your iPhone.

Medications app

Medications Watchos

Medications Watchos (Image credit: Apple)

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.

Medications will allow 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.

What Apple Watches can run watchOS 9

Looks like with Apple Watch Series 3 — which was compatible with watchOS 8 — is finally getting the boot. All the models that are compatible with watchOS 9 are:

  • Apple Watch Series 4
  • Apple Watch Series 5
  • Apple Watch Series 6
  • Apple Watch Series 7
  • Apple Watch SE

Likely, an Apple Watch Series 8 (and potentially a few other models) will be launched this fall, and we expect watchOS 9 to be compatible with those new models as well. Of course, we won't know for sure until Apple announces it.

What is the watchOS 9 release date?

While the developer beta is already available to download right now, watchOS 9 won't be officially released until later this year. Typically, Apple releases its new software at the same time the new Apple Watch is announced, so usually sometime in September or October. But no official data was given yet, but Apple did say Fall 2022.

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

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.