Apple has already announced the new features coming to the Apple Watch with watchOS 8, and it will be getting apps like Contacts, Mindfulness and Find Items (works with the Find My network) for the first time. Popular apps like Home, Music, Wallet and Photos, are getting a big redesigns, too. New workouts like Tai Chi and Pilates are going to be available. You're going to (finally) be able to set multiple timers at once. And it's going to get easier to send an iMessage without whipping out your iPhone.
But that's just scratching the service. We've rounded up five best features coming to the Apple Watch with watchOS 8 below. To check out all the new features, however big or small, visit Apple's WatchOS Preview web page.
Turn your Portrait mode photos into a watch face.
The new watchOS is going to allow you to make a special watch face out of any Portrait mode photo that you've taken on your iPhone. You've previously been able to turn a photo into a watch face (via the Apple Watch app on your iPhone), but watchOS 8 is going to be able to turn your Portrait mode photos into a more dynamic watch face with a multilayer effect. Basically, the person or pet that you turn into a watch face is going to look better than ever.
You can track your breathing while you sleep.
Apple introduced Sleep, its first native sleep-tracking for the Apple Watch, with last year's watchOS 7, but the new software update is bringing one key improvement to that experience. Specifically, respiratory rate tracking. The new feature is going use the Apple Watch's built-in accelerometer to measure your breathing patterns while sleeping. You'll be able to view your results each day or as a trend over time. These results will be viewable in the Sleep app as well as the Heath app on your iPhone.
View feeds from security cameras right from your wrist.
The Home app on your Apple Watch is getting a big overhaul with watchOS 8. Not only is it getting a complete redesign, but it's gaining a pretty neat feature for all people with HomeKit-enabled cameras or video doorbells — you're going to be view what the camera sees right from your wrist. This means no more having to take your iPhone out for your pocket to see whose at your door.
Additionally, the new layout of the Home app is going to make it a lot more intuitive to control the other smart home devices you have in your house. If you have a HomePod mini or HomePod, the Intercom feature — which allows you to say something and have it play on all your smart speakers — is also going to be made available on the Apple Watch.
The Wallet app can store a digital copy of your keys.
The Wallet app on your Apple Watch will be getting some pretty significant upgrades once watchOS 8 rolls out, too. It's already stored things like credit cards or transit cards for quick and contactless transactions, but now it's going to store a digital copy of your home's key. This means that if you have a HomeKit-enabled smart lock, you can simply tap on your Apple Watch to unlock it. You'll also be able to store a digital copy of hotel room keys, although it will require that hotel to be running compatible third-party software.
If you have an Apple Watch Series 6, watchOS 8 is going to allow you to store a digital car key so you'll be able unlock your car from a distance. This digital car keys will require a participating car manufacturer to work and you'll need a Series 6 (or later), as they are the only ones with Apple's U1 chip.
More way to use your always-on display.
The always-on display of the Series 5 and Series 6 (not the Apple Watch SE) has actually been pretty limited. Other than being able to tell the time at all times, there were only a few apps — most obviously, the Workouts app — that were able to take advantage of it. But that's set to change.
That's because watchOS 8 is bringing more apps support the Always-On display. This includes apps like Maps, Mindfulness, Calculator, Music, Phone, Podcasts, Stopwatch, Timers and Voice Memos. When using these apps, you'll see the progress (or what song is playing) when the screen is dimmed. Apple is also opening up the API for third-party developers so more apps will be able to utilize the always-on display.
What's the release date?
Apple is set to roll out watchOS 8 this fall around the same time that the next Apple Watch — likely the Series 7 — is set to be announced. If you're eager to try out watchOS 8 earlier than that, the developer beta is available now (but you have to be a developer), while the public beta is set to be available to the masses in "sometime in July."
Will my old Apple Watch support it?
The new watchOS will be supported on all Apple Watch models that are Series 3 or later; this includes the Series 3, Series 4, Series 5, Series 6 and the Apple Watch SE.
That said, if you have a Series 3, which was released in 2017, you probably want to consider upgrading to one of Apple's newer smartwatches. This is because its the only compatible Apple Model model that won't support watchOS 8's new Portraits watch faces (learn more, below). It also was very buggy running watchOS 7, so there's a good chance that experience isn't going to get better with watchOS 8.