Thanks to a preview of watchOS 9 for Apple Watch, we’re starting to imagine what the latest software update will look like on Apple’s upcoming smartwatch. We also think watchOS 9 may reveal clues to what the Apple Watch Series 8 might offer.
We’ve seen a few rumors about the Apple Watch 8, but there’s little indication of what will be different compared to the Apple Watch 7. It might have a new design, additional health sensors, and even make its debut alongside several models, but we won’t. know for sure until its scheduled launch this fall.
Until then, watchOS 9 gives us an idea of Apple’s wearable computing priorities and how it plans to make the best smartwatch even better. So, by looking at the main features of watchOS 9 and considering what we know about the devices supported by watchOS 9, we’ve made some educated guesses about what we’ll get with the Apple Watch 8.
1. New health and fitness tracking sensors
Several features of watchOS 9 aim to improve the fitness and health tracking capabilities of the Apple Watch. Although the Apple Watch is already one of the best running watches, it seems better placed to compete with Garmin fitness trackers that have new metrics for runners. There’s an added multisport training type for triathlon training, as well as improved swimming data.
To take advantage of these fitness tracking efforts and encourage the daily closing of Apple Watch rings, the Apple Watch 8 could offer an updated heart rate sensor to take advantage of the addition of heart rate zones to the workouts. Alternatively, a new Apple Watch 8 body temperature sensor could benefit from general health tracking. watchOS 9 also accommodates sleep stages, which could be informed by trends in overnight skin temperature readings.
Increasingly, it looks like the Apple Watch is a useful medical device for the elderly, people with chronic conditions, and disabled users. There are even ways to get an Apple Watch for free through your health insurance. Whether it’s keeping you active, alerting emergency services when you fall, spotting trends in your movements, or meeting accessibility needs, the Apple Watch has many positive uses.
The WatchOS 9 (and iOS 16) Medications app now tracks prescriptions and other medications. This information can also be monitored by a trusted family member or friend with Health Sharing. Not only that, watchOS 9 offers new ways to control your Apple Watch with hand gestures and the ability to navigate Apple Watch through iPhone assistive features like Voice Control and Switch Control.
Recognizing the inclusion of age and accessibility as a major strength of Apple Watch, we wouldn’t be surprised if Apple Watch 8 offered more age-friendly accessibility features and tools.
3. Multiple models – Apple Watch SE 2, Apple Watch Rugged
The specific features of watchOS 9 lead us to believe that rumors of several Apple Watch models coming this year might turn out to be true. In other words, the Apple Watch 8 might not be the only new Apple smartwatch arriving soon.
Advanced running and swimming metrics might be better suited to a rugged version of the Apple Watch 8 that is aimed at outdoor sports enthusiasts. Whether it would become one of the best sports watches depends heavily on battery life and GPS features. Rumors about the rugged Apple Watch started in the spring of 2021.
We could also see the Apple Watch SE 2, a sequel to the Apple Watch SE, now that we know the list of supported devices for watchOS 9 does not include the Apple Watch Series 3. A budget alternative to the Apple Watch 8 seems like a smart move for this year.