The Apple Watch has long been one of Apple's most important products — it literally has saved people's lives. That fact alone is what makes my ears perk up anytime Apple decided to mention the watchOS because I know it has far-reaching consequences and benefits to many different people. It's not just a piece of cool tech, it's a device that lets you live your life better.
Following WWDC22, the iMore team is just starting to dive into the beta software for watchOS 9, but I have a few standout features that I think will finally make the platform much better for lots of people.
Updates to health and fitness
There's no denying that tracking health and fitness is one of the core uses for many Apple Watch owners, and watchOS 9 is finally not just adding a new workout type but adding more workout metrics in general that will be a massive boon for the people who want them.
First, you have custom workouts, allowing you to create your own workouts in the Workout app. You can even have structured intervals, meaning you can include rest intervals when you want — between sets, reps, or whatever you are doing.
Second, the multisport workouts will be a dream for triathletes everywhere since you'll be able to track your running, swimming, and cycling all in one workout. Not only that, but the Apple Watch will also automatically switch between the three activities by using the sensors to track the different movements you make. So, if you're training for that triathlon coming up, you just have to start one workout and never think about it again.
Lastly, watchOS 9 is offering a bunch of new metrics to track for various workouts. Runners will be able to get some advanced metrics that can be really integral to tracking performance, such as Stride Length, Ground Contact Time, and Vertical Oscillation.
Swimmers are getting some new toys, too, with watchOS 9's ability to automatically detect when you are using a kickboard and classify the stroke type in your workout summary. Plus, you will also be able to track your SWOLF score, which will make tracking your pool laps much easier.
Medications will be a huge boon
Well, I mentioned the fitness aspects already but helping you to take better care of your health is another important part of the Apple Watch. The new Medications app is probably one of the more useful health-related apps Apple has come out with in a while. As a child of parents that are getting older and taking more and more medications for multiple health complications, having an app that can track it all for them will be a huge relief for me — and them! It's not even all about being able to track your medication, either.
A huge benefit will be the ability to check if the medication you are taking has any interactions with other medications, so you don't accidentally mix anything that could be dangerous for you. For the time being, it seems like this feature will be in the U.S. only, and obviously, doesn't replace medical advice from an actual medical professional, but it could really help a lot of people take their medications correctly, on time, and much more safely. That's a huge plus in my book.
UI improvements (even if they are small)
When I went over my general reactions to the watchOS 9 announcements, I mentioned that Apple didn't include nearly as many UI improvements as I was hoping for; however, there are a couple that I do think will be useful.
The fact that notifications on your Apple Watch will be smaller when you're actively using an app is a nice quality-of-life change. Seeing more of your screen is always a positive. Plus, the Dock is much more intuitive because it actually promotes the apps that you are currently using over all the other apps in the Dock. This will make it much easier to switch between apps when you want to, because you shouldn't have to go searching through all your open apps just to jump back and forth between two.
Other features may come to light later
Remember, we've just started diving into the new betas just like everyone else, which means there may be more features that come to light. There are already a few features in watchOS 9 you may have missed if you skimmed through the WWDC keynote.
I fully expect to find more goodies in the first watchOS 9 beta as I spend more time with it and will report back with new discoveries, of course.
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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.