If you have an iPhone, the Apple Watch is by far the best fitness tracker. Perhaps the only downside (besides battery life) is that Apple’s health software has always been somewhat lacking. It is not uncommon to see Apple Watch users immediately transfer their data to more useful and easily exploitable software, such as Strava or Nike Run Club. But all that could change with a slew of new fitness features making their debut in WatchOS 9.
If features like stride length measurement and vertical oscillation work as expected, they could easily turn the Apple Watch into a best running watch and the best watch for endurance athletes, period. This is in addition to a whole series of brand new features on the new 8 series, such as collision detection and a body temperature sensor that will help people who want to become pregnant track their fertility. Here we break down all the major new features in WatchOS 9. Be sure to check out our Best Apple Watch and the Best Apple Watch Accessories guides to learn more.
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Is your Apple Watch compatible?
Will your watch be able to download WatchOS 9? The following models are compatible:
- apple watch Series 4
- apple watch Series 5
- apple watch SE (2020)
- apple watch Series 6
- apple watch Series 7
- apple watch SE (2022)
- apple watch Series 8
- apple watch Ultra
You’ll also need an iPhone that supports iOS 16, which includes iPhone 8 (2017) or later. You can consult our Summary of iOS 16 features to find out how to download the new operating system to your handset.
How to Install WatchOS 9
You can install WatchOS 9 with your iPhone or Apple Watch. Whichever method you choose, you’ll need to make sure your iPhone is connected to Wi-Fi and running iOS 16, and your Apple Watch battery is at 50% (at least). You’ll also need to make sure your watch and iPhone are side by side, to keep them within reach.
To update your watch using your iPhone, open the Apple Watch app and press the My watch tongue. Then press General > Software update and To download. From there, you’ll see a progress wheel on your Apple Watch indicating that the update has begun. If you choose to install an update directly to the Apple Watch, you’ll need to make sure the watch is connected to Wi-Fi. Then open the Settings app on your watch and press General > Software update > Install.
Installing WatchOS 9 can take up to an hour, so be sure you won’t need to access your smartwatch during this time. If you need to, you can choose to update your Apple Watch overnight. When you receive a notification that the new operating system is available for download, tap the Update tonight option. Then, on your iPhone, confirm that you want to update your watch overnight. Before you go to bed, make sure your iPhone and Apple Watch are charging overnight.
Health and Fitness Features
There are a number of improvements to the Apple Watch’s health and fitness apps. Here is the truth.
Best Workout Views
To better optimize your workouts, Apple has updated its Workout app to show more stats, and you can rotate the Digital Crown to cycle through different views such as heart rate zones, activity rings, power and elevation. You’ll also have the ability to create custom workouts complete with work and rest intervals, as well as alerts for heart rate, pace, power, and cadence during the workout.
The redesigned Compass app now has a hybrid view that includes both the simple analog compass that shows direction and bearing, and a new digital compass. Turning the crown displays relevant navigation information, such as latitude, longitude, altitude and incline. It also includes new orientation features, such as Waypoints and Backtrack. Tap the Waypoint icon to place a marker at a point of interest. Backtrack uses GPS data to show the user where they have been if they get disoriented and need to turn around.
Detailed race metrics
Anyone who uses an Apple Watch while running will be happy to know that you can now track new metrics like ground contact time, stride length, and vertical oscillation, all of which can help you improve your form. You can add them to your training views or view them in the Fitness app summary as well as the Health app (Fitness app is finally available for iPhones from iOS 16). You will also be able to see trends and patterns over time.
If you’ve streamed your Fitness+ workouts to a second screen (like your TV) using AirPlay instead of Apple TV, you’ll finally be able to see your real-time heart rate, calories, and Burn Bar on the screen (if that’s the case). is compatible). Speaking of metrics, there’s also a new “trainer captions” feature built into your stats – with phrases like “Hard” and “All Out!” – to help you increase your intensity levels during exercise.
Stages of sleep
Sleep tracking now shows different stages of sleep. Thanks to the heart rate sensor and the accelerometer, your smartwatch will identify when you are in REM, central and deep sleep. You can check this data every morning using the Sleep app on the watch. A more detailed breakdown including things like sleep time, heart rate, and breath rate, plus sleep comparison charts will sync to the Health app.
Log your medications
In iOS 16, the Health app now offers a new Drugs tab. You can use it to log medications, create schedules, and set reminders. These reminders will then appear on your Apple Watch (and iPhone), with the ability to save when you take them by tapping the notification on your watch.
Track your atrial fibrillation history
If you’ve been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, you can now turn on the AFib History feature for a weekly update on more in-depth information about your condition. You can see an estimate of how often your heartbeat shows signs of atrial fibrillation and how other factors such as exercise, sleep, and alcohol impact your atrial fibrillation. You can also access a detailed history through the Health app, with the ability to download a PDF file to give to your GP. According to Apple, the feature has “received a number of local clearances and approvals from health authorities around the world, and will be available in more than 100 countries and territories, including the United States, Canada, Europe, Hong Kong, Mexico, South Africa, the UK, and more. It will be available in Australia later this fall.
Temperature sensing (8 and Ultra series only)
With a two-sided temperature sensor, one on the back of the smartwatch close to your skin and one under the screen, the Apple Watch Series 8 contains a new feature that can help detect changes in your body based on your temperature. While you sleep, it can measure your wrist temperature to detect any difference from your baseline temperature that could be caused by illness or exhaustion. If you track your period using the Health app, you’ll receive “retrospective ovulation estimates” to help you plan your family and improve period predictions.