Apple announced watchOS 5 for Apple Watch at WWDC 2018, with a number of new features including Activity and Workout updates, improved notifications, Podcasts app, Walkie-Talkie, and much more. As with previous watchOS updates, this one focuses heavily on features targeted towards health and fitness, communication and making Apple Watch more functional as a standalone device. Here is our in-depth preview of all the new features in watchOS 5.
New features in watchOS 5
Improved Siri and Smarter Siri watch face
This was on the top of my wishlists for watchOS 5 features. An improved Siri watch face which is also open for third party apps. The Siri watch face by default is also improved and uses machine learning to highlight the right information and shortcuts. The watch face will also show new Siri Shortcuts, which are a part of iOS 12 and also work with macOS Mojave. In terms of third party integration, apps can now show up relevant information related to your location or time of the day. Think of this as Apple’s take on Google Now, right on your wrist. You can also use Siri, without saying Hey Siri, just by raising your wrist.
This is Apple’s newest take on communication apps for Watch. Apple had launched the original Watch with Digital Touch, which was linked to the side button. However, it quickly became deprioritized as a part of iMessage. With Walkie-Talkie, Apple takes another shot at a quick communication mechanism. As the name suggests, this app is for sending and receiving voice messages. Upon first launch, the app shows you contacts you communicate with the most. A simple tap on the talk buttons lets you start exchanging voice messages.
The Podcasts app finally makes its way to the Apple Watch. The app functions just like its iOS counterpart. It also removes your dependency on your phone. This means that you can go on a workout and listen to your favorite Podcast, without having to carry your phone with you. Podcasts app also works with Siri for handsfree control.
All the improvements that notifications get with iOS 12, also make their way to watchOS 5. Notifications are grouped by app. An improved Do Not Disturb mode lets you disable notifications for certain time durations or until you leave your location. Developers can also build interactivity right into their app notifications so you can do more without opening the app on your Watch.
Activity and Workout Updates
Apple has added a new number of fitness related new features to watchOS 5:
You can now challenge your friends to seven-day competitions to see who closes all their Activity rings. The Activity app will give you regular updates to tell you where you stand in the competition and whether you are winning or losing. The winner will get an award for bragging rights.
watchOS 5 supports automatic workout detection, which is my favorite fitness related feature in this update. It will even track and add Activity to your Exercise ring, even if you did not manually track it as a workout.
Yoga and Hiking are also new additions to the Workout app.
Advanced Running Features
You can now set the pace at which you want to run and watchOS 5 will track it for you and let you know if you are ahead of or behind your pace target. Your runs are also split by miles so you can compare all the miles you have run. You can also see your steps per minute during a run.
Browse websites on Apple Watch
Apple has integrated WebKit in watchOS 5 to allow users to quickly view web links. Web links can be access from messages, mail, notifications or even third party apps. This makes it easy to view content without using your phone. It is not a perfect experience by any means and web links load in Safari Reader Mode by default, but it works. There is no stand-alone Safari app for browsing, but you can perform simple browser related functions like go back or forward or refresh a web link.
Miscellaneous features include the following:
- Student ID cards are now supported through the Wallet app. These can be used for gym or library access or for payments. However, this requires university support and is only supported by 6 of them for now.
- You can now connect to new WiFi networks directly from Apple Watch
- Siri watch face supports a gray color theme
- Astronomy and Solar watch faces now support complications
- Control Center and Notifications are accessible even when using apps, by holding and swiping from the bottom or top of the display
watchOS 5 compatible Apple Watch models
Apple Watch Series 1, Series 2 and Series 3 will receive watchOS 5 while the original first generation Apple Watch will not receive the update. Only Apple Watch Series 3 will support viewing web links.
watchOS 5 release date
The update will be available publicly for supported Watches this fall, which should be around September. Interested users can test the developer beta on their Apple Watch, although it is not recommended for non-tech savvy users.