Here are the new features Apple is adding to watchOS 8 for the Apple Watch

Here are the new features Apple is adding to watchOS 8 for the Apple Watch

Apple today announced watchOS 8 at its WWDC 2021 event, with a ton of new health and fitness features in tow. The update will make the Apple Watch more mindful of your health and also more customizable.

First, Apple is adding support for digital car keys on the Apple Watch series 6. Thanks to Ultra Wideband support, the watch will be able to unlock and start supported cars. You’ll also be able to use an Apple Watch to unlock your home, office, and more. On top of that, support for real-life IDs is also coming to the Apple Watch, so you’ll be able to get through TSA at the airport with just your watch.


Apple is also redesigning the Home app for Apple Watch with watchOS 8. The new app will be able to control accessories in different rooms, and it also brings the ability to view HomeKit-enabled cameras directly on the watch. The app will also add a new Intercom feature. This lets users send voice messages to HomePod devices in their home. Apple mentioned other smart home-related improvements at the event, too.

Health and fitness features

watchOS 8 is also bringing many improvements to health and fitness features on Apple Watch. Mindfulness is one of the big focus points, which Apple says is behind the improvements to the Breathe app. The new Breathe app will use a smoother and more relaxing animation to help users clear their minds. There’s also a new kind of experience here, called Reflect. Reflect sessions come with guidance to help users think back to happy and relaxing memories. On that note, Apple is also adding two new workout types in watchOS 8: Tai Chi and Pilates. These workouts are good for both physical fitness and mindfulness, helping users relax even further.

An Apple Watch Reflect session displaying a message asking the user to think about a happy memory

Another health-related improvement in watchOS 8 is a new metric: sleeping respiratory rate. The Apple Watch will be able to determine the user’s number of breaths per minute while they’re sleeping. This ties into the overall sleep quality, which users can already keep track of. On the topic of fitness, Apple Fitness+ is adding support for picture-in-picture mode in watchOS 8, and it will also be possible to pause and resume workouts from any device. Additionally, new filtering options for workouts will be available.


Moving on to customization, Apple is adding a new Portrait watch face in watchOS 8. The company says the Photo watch face is the most popular among Apple Watch users, so this expands on that. With the Portrait watch face, you’ll be able to see differences in depth between a person in the foreground and the background. Apple is also improving the Photos app with a new viewing experience. Additionally, you’ll be able to share photos via Mail or Messages with the new Share Sheet.

Speaking of Messages, Apple is improving the input experience for the app. You’ll now be able to combine text, emoji, and the Scribble feature in one message. If you use dictation, you’ll also be able to change the text after speaking. And if that’s not enough, Apple is also adding support for GIFs from the Internet in the Messages app. watchOS 8 will also add the Contacts app to the Apple Watch, making it easier to start a new conversation or call someone. watchOS 8 also includes support for Focus, Apple’s new take on Do Not Disturb that’s also on iOS 15.

GIF search in the Messages app on watchOS 8

Other watchOS 8 improvements

Other new features coming to watchOS 8 include AssistiveTouch, an accessibility feature that Apple had already announced. This lets users navigate the interface with single-arm and hand gestures. Multiple timers are now supported and can be given different names using Siri. Apple is adding support for more apps on the always-on display of the Apple Watch, and they’re also opening up the always-on API to third-party apps. Finally, Family Setup will add the ability to add transit cards from Hong Kong, Japan, and other regions. It will also be possible to add a Google account to Mail and Calendar.

As for app-specific updates, there are two new apps: Find Devices and Find Items. These will let users find items with AirTags on the Find My network or find lost devices that have the same Apple ID. The Weather app is adding support for severe weather notifications and next-hour precipitation alerts. It will also get updated watch face complications. Finally, the Music app will add support for sharing songs, albums, and playlists through Mail and Messages from a single place.

About author

João Carrasqueira
João Carrasqueira

Editor at XDA Computing. I've been covering the world of technology since 2018, but I've loved the field for a lot longer. And I have a weird affinity for Nintendo videogames, which I'm always happy to talk about.

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