The next generation of Apple Watch software is here. Along with iOS 12, Apple has made watchOS 5 available to download for everyone.
Apple Watch wearers will notice a number of different improvements and handy additions that continue to make the wearable device even better. Here’s a roundup of the new features in watchOS 5.
All About Activity
While there are a wide variety of third-party Apple Watch apps to track a workout, Apple’s own built-in tools are taking a big step up.
In the Workout app, you can now select from two new types of exercise—hiking and yoga. After selecting either one of those, the Apple Watch will track active calories and exercise minutes.
Speaking of workouts, watchOS 5 will now automatically detect a number of different popular workout types. You’ll see a notification on the Watch to confirm the workout and give correct credit.
And there’s no need to worry about forgetting to end a workout. After a short period when no activity is detected, a notification will allow you to end the workout or switch to another type.
Runners will also be happy to take advantage of several new features. The steps per minute feature will work for indoor or outdoors walks and runs. When running outside, a vibrating pace alarm will let runners know if they are ahead or behind of their selected pace without needing to look down at the watch screen.
A rolling pace mile will also show runners the pace for the immediately preceding mile, along with the average or current pace. That will help give runners a better idea of how they are fairing.
You can also now do more than just share activity data with friends and family. Apple Watch wearers can invite another person to battle in a one-on-one activity competition. These last seven days and offer points for closing rings. Special notifications will also help motivate you to a victory.
Say Hello to Walkie-Talkie and a Podcasts App
Apple Watch users are getting another way to communicate in watchOS 5 with the new Walkie-Talkie feature.
Just like the old-school devices, you can talk with friends and family using Wi-Fi or any LTE-enabled Apple Watch.
On the Apple Watch, using the Walkie-Talkie app, you’ll add a specific contact to communicate with. When ready to talk, just select the contact and tap and hold the Talk button to speak. When you’re done, take your finger off of the screen.
You can also opt to turn off availability for Walkie-Talkie at any time through the app.
Apple is also bringing its great Podcasts app to the small screen of the Apple Watch. When starting Podcasts, it will show episodes that you’ve downloaded to the Watch or those on your iPhone.
It’s easy to download a podcast episode to the Apple Watch or stream it with the LTE-enabled version. You can then listen with Apple’s AirPods or other Bluetooth headphones.
Using Siri on the Apple Watch, you can even subscribe to a podcast or start playback of an episode.
As a nice touch, a new syncing feature will allow users to partially listen to a podcast on the Watch and then pick up where they left off on an iPhone or iPad.
A Better Siri Watch Face
The Siri watch face continues to stand among the variety of watch faces available to customize the Apple Watch. And it’s getting even better in watchOS 5 thanks to a dose of machine learning.
Some of the new additions you’ll notice include heart rate information after a workout, commute times, and scores from favorite sports teams. Siri Shortcuts, a major new addition to iOS, will also appear at the correct time of the day.
Third-party apps can now also provide information for the face. Apple says apps like Nike+ Run Club, Glow Baby, and Mobike will support the face, and you can expect many other popular choices as well.
Other Notable Improvements
We’ve covered the major upgrades in watchOS 5, but you’ll find plenty of little touches too.
- Talking to Siri is now even easier. Instead of needing to say “Hey Siri,” just raise your wrist to talk with the virtual assistant. You can also change the volume of Siri using the Settings app.
- The Control Center on your Apple Watch is now customizable. Swipe up from a watch face, then scroll down to the bottom and select Edit. From here you can move the icons in any order you like.
- Instead of dealing with notifications one at a time, watchOS 5 groups information from the same app together. You can open or clear all notifications from one group with just a tap.
- Selecting the Do Not Disturb icon in Control Center now brings up a number of options. Along with simply turning the mode on, you can enable it for an hour, until tomorrow morning, or until you leave the current location.
- When tapping on some links in Messages and Mail, you can now view web content on the Watch screen. The content shows in the best format for the small screen, and can utilize Reader Mode as well.
- While there are definitely some better options available for the Apple Watch, the stock Weather app now shows wind direction, wind speed, air quality, and UV index.
- Instead of needing to carry around a college ID, the Apple Watch can now step in and provide students quick access to places around the campus, pay for meals, and more. Students at Duke, the University of Alabama, and the University of Oklahoma can take advantage of the feature starting this fall. A number of other universities will join the program before the end of 2018.
Update Your Watch Now
If you haven’t already updated to watchOS 5, it’s available for every version of the Apple Watch except the original Series 0 that hit the market in 2015.
Head to the companion Watch app on your iPhone and select the My Watch tab. Then choose General > Software Update and follow the prompts. To update, you’ll need to have an Apple Watch on its charger with more than 50 percent battery life remaining.
While the Apple Watch continues to get even better with each new software release, there are a number of lesser-known Apple Watch features that can help power up the wearable device. You should also make sure to install the best Apple Watch apps.