Apple Watch owners will enjoy new fitness features, designs, and messaging tricks soon

Apple has taken the wraps off watchOS 8.0 during its WWDC developer conference, alongside iOS 15 for iPhone owners, iPadOS 15, and a new iteration of its macOS software for Mac desktop and laptop PCs. The latest update for Apple Watch, which will be available to download for all users this autumn, focuses on health and fitness features.

Apple says it has seen an increase in the number of people using the Breathe app. In response to that increased demand, Apple has updated the animations within the app and added the ability to “Reflect”, so you can take a moment to reconsider events in recent days. For example, the user may see something like “Recall a time recently when you felt a sense of calm. Bring that feeling into this moment,” or “Reflect on one thing you’re grateful for and think about why you appreciate it so much.”

Since Apple is expanding the watchOS app to be much more than just breathing exercises, the Breathe app has been rebranded to Mindfulness with the new update.

That’s not the only improvement when it comes to health features. Those who wear their Apple Watch to bed will now have their sleeping respiratory rate tracked, which is the number of breaths per minute. Like all markers tracked by Apple’s Health app, which is available on iPhone and iPad, long-term trends will be flagged when Apple has enough data to see whether your health is improving or not. To do this, Apple Watch uses the built-in accelerometer to measure respiratory rate while sleeping, and this information can be viewed, along with trends over time, in the Health app on iPhone.

If you want to boost your fitness levels, there are new classes available on Apple Fitness+. Those without a subscription can track Pilates and Tai-chi from their wrist – workouts that haven’t been supported in previous versions of watchOS.

As you’d expect from a new Apple Watch operating system upgrade, watchOS 8.0 brings a new watch face called Portrait Watch Face. This uses the depth data found in Portrait Mode images, which adds an artificial blur to the background of your photos to mimic a high-end DSLR, to add the clock behind the subject. So, you won’t need to put up with the digital clock face hiding the person you wanted to highlight on your wrist. Scrolling the Digital Crown on the side of your wearable will highlight the subject of the photo.

The Photos app is also redesigned, offering new ways to view and navigate collections, Memories and Featured Photos now sync to Apple Watch, and photos can be shared through Messages and Mail with the new Share Sheet.

watchOS 8.0 also brings a number of improvements to the Messaging feature. You can now tap on words in a drafted reply to delete them. Scrolling the Digital Crown will move the cursor too. And like the Messages app on your iPhone, you can use small apps within Messages to send GIFs, videos and more from your wrist. According to Apple, replying and sending texts from your Apple Watch should now be as fully featured as iPhone.

The Weather app now supports Severe Weather notifications, displaying government alerts about certain severe weather events. The app also delivers Next Hour precipitation alerts and offers updated complications.

For the first time, a version of the Find Items app is coming to Apple Watch, so that users can locate tagged items using the Find My network.

A separate Find Devices app will help users locate lost Apple devices that are signed in with the same Apple ID, like an iPad or Mac. As it stands, Watch owners can only use the Control Centre to ring your iPhone to help locate it nearby.

“Apple Watch is the most loved watch in the world, keeping users healthy, active, and connected,” said Kevin Lynch, Apple’s vice president of Technology. “With watchOS 8, we’re bringing more convenient access to places users live, work, and visit with significant updates to Home and Wallet, expanding support for both physical and mental well-being, and enabling richer personal connections with the new Portraits face and updates to Messages.”

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