Apple watch

What WatchOS 9 says about the future of the Apple Watch

This story is part WWDC 2022CNET’s full coverage from and about Apple’s annual developer conference.

What is happening

Apple’s WatchOS 9 update will bring new sports performance metrics to the Apple Watch, among other key health and fitness tracking improvements.

why is it important

The update could set the stage for the rumored rugged Apple Watch which is expected to debut this year.

And after

Apple will release WatchOS 9 in the fall, possibly alongside three new Apple Watch models.

While Apple should not launch the Apple Watch Series 8 until fall, the company previewed what’s in store for its smartwatch lineup during the WatchOS 9 preview on monday Worldwide Developers Conference opening speech. One message was clear: the future of the Apple Watch is all about health and fitness.

The update will bring more sports performance tracking metrics (especially for runners), deeper sleep monitoring, and tools to log medications. It’s impossible to know what to expect until Apple announces its next smartwatch (or smartwatches). But WatchOS 9’s focus on sports training apparently paves the way for the rumored Apple Watch Explorer Edition, which we may see later this year.

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The new software suggests that Apple wants its smartwatch to appeal to professional athletes, casual exercise enthusiasts and those who need to monitor their heart health at the same time. The next Apple Watch crop announced for fall will likely come with new hardware to better support this vision – hopefully with better battery life as well.

WatchOS 9’s workout features would be ideal for an Apple Watch Explorer Edition

Apple Watch Series 7 showing a workout screen

The Apple Watch Series 7

Lexy Savvides/CNET

Apple sprinkled a bunch of new training tools and metrics in WatchOS 9. These include new running data points like stride length and ground contact time, the ability to track heart rate zones, interval training, a type of multi-sport training for triathlons and plank detection for swimmers. The announcement also comes after Apple made improvements to Apple Watch cycle detection Last year.

Only Apple knows what awaits us in the future. But it doesn’t seem like a coincidence that this update is coming as Apple is expected to release a rugged Apple Watch designed for extreme sports this fall. Bloomberg reports that an Apple Watch with additional shock resistance similar to Casio’s G-Shock watches may be in the works. The watch is sometimes called the Explorer Edition internally and may have a rubberized case for extra durability, according to the report. The device would be marketed as an alternative option for athletes and hikers alongside the standard Series 8 and the next generation. Apple WatchSE.

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The Apple Watch already has plenty to offer fitness enthusiasts, with plenty of workout choices, activity goals and reminders, heart rate notifications, and metrics like VO2 max and elevation. But until WatchOS 9 arrives, the Apple Watch will lack running-specific features that athletes might find useful. by Garmin Running watches, for example, include tools such as training programs for specific types of runs, pace indications, and running metrics such as cadence and stride length, among other features that vary. depending on model.

The Apple Watch is already the most popular smartwatch in the world with 36.1% of global shipments in the first quarter of 2022, according to Search for counterpoint. With the new measures for runners coming in WatchOS 9, Apple could further strengthen its grip on the market by attracting a more competitive sports audience.

Even with new features in WatchOS 9, the Apple Watch still won’t offer runners as much feedback as some specialty watches. But the new software certainly brings the Apple Watch closer than ever before.

What else WatchOS 9 could tell us about the future of the Apple Watch

Apple Watch sleep tracking

Apple Watch’s new Sleep Stages feature in WatchOS 9

Screenshot/CNET

Apple’s focus on fitness was at the heart of its WatchOS 9 announcement. But some of the other software updates could also hint at Apple’s future direction. For example, the company has done more on sleep tracking by introducing Sleep Stages, a feature that analyzes the time spent in different stages of sleep. Apple is catching up in this regard; rival fitness trackers Fitbit, Oura and Samsung have supported this feature for years.

Apple’s expansion into sleep tracking indicates that it expects Apple Watches to be worn more frequently at night. This makes me believe that Apple might be planning some kind of battery life improvement for the Apple Watch, although there’s no way to know for sure until the company reveals. his next watch.

Apple says its smartwatch can last 18 hours on a single charge, and anecdote, I usually get about a day or two before it needs a power boost. Apple Watch battery life hasn’t changed significantly in years, but Apple got around that by implementing faster charging speeds with Series 6 and 7.

Apple will likely continue down this path rather than drastically improve the Watch’s battery life. But there’s also a chance that Apple could introduce a new low-power mode with more features than the watch’s current power reserve feature. says Bloomberg. It was supposed to launch with WatchOS 9, according to the report, although Apple didn’t mention a new low-power option at Monday’s event.

Considering battery life has been one of the Apple Watch’s persistent criticisms — and not to mention Bloomberg’s reliable track record — I wouldn’t be surprised to see this capability coming in the future. And remember: Apple introduced new WatchOS 8 features for cyclists alongside the Apple Watch Series 7 during its fall product event in 2021. So it’s possible that Apple has more software features to announce later this year.

WatchOS 9 also provides another signal that Apple is expanding its efforts in general health and wellness. A new feature called AFib History will allow people diagnosed with atrial fibrillation to access more information about their condition, such as an estimate of how often their heartbeat shows signs of A-fib. Another highlight of WatchOS 9 is the ability to track prescriptions and receive medication reminders.

These updates indicate that Apple sees its Watch as a tool for tracking body changes over time that can be shared with doctors. And if the reports of Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal Proving to be correct, Apple will take this idea one step further by adding a temperature sensor to the Series 8.

Many major Apple Watch milestones have always been tied to new hardware releases. The Series 3, for example, was the first model to support cellular connectivity, making the Apple Watch a standalone product rather than an iPhone companion. Series 4 brought ECG monitoring and fall detection, expanding the Apple Watch’s role as a health device.

WatchOS 9 is not as important as these launches. But it will bring features that could be crucial in Apple’s mission to make the Apple Watch the ultimate health and fitness device. And it’s very telling of Apple’s immediate and long-term plans for the Apple Watch.