Apple’s WWDC 2021 conference starts on June 7, and watchOS 8 is one of the big software launches we’ll likely see – here’s how to watch WWDC 2021 if you’re interested.
The kick-off keynotes conference will probably show us the next operating system update, as well as iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, so you can see what new features are coming to Apple Watches.
That doesn’t mean your Apple Watch will get the watchOS 8 update straight away though – you’ll probably have to wait until September before you can ditch watchOS 7 and upgrade.
We’ll update this article with full details of all those things as and when they happen, but for now, you’ll find information on the likely release date and compatibility of watchOS 8 below, along with what few things we have heard.
Then, further down, we’ve included a list of the changes, updates, improvements, and new features that we most want from Apple’s next major Apple Watch software update, so give them a read and see if you agree.
Apple is likely to reveal watchOS 8 at WWDC 2021, which we know will run from June 7 to June 11. We’ve also heard that a new Mind app could be introduced.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The next major Apple Watch software update
- When is it out? Probably September, following a June 7 unveiling
- How much will it cost? It will be free
watchOS 8 release date
watchOS 8 will probably land in September, as that’s when new versions tend to land, typically alongside new hardware, with the Apple Watch 7 and the iPhone 13 expected this year.
However, although it probably won’t be finished and released until then, watchOS 8 will likely be announced a lot earlier. Apple often unveils new watchOS software during its annual WWDC event, which this year is being held between June 7 and June 11.
So we’ll probably see watchOS 8 at WWDC 2021, with a developer beta launching around the same time, and public betas following. Of course, some features might not be revealed until a lot closer to the launch of the finished software.
watchOS 8 compatibility
We don’t have any official details on watchOS 8 compatibility yet, but watchOS 7 is available for all models from the Apple Watch 3 onwards. So if any models are dropped for the new software it would likely be the Apple Watch 3.
That said, Apple still sells the Apple Watch 3, and dropping support for a product that’s still on sale in the same year probably wouldn’t be popular, so we’ll likely see watchOS 8 available for all the same Apple Watch models as watchOS 7.
watchOS 8 news and leaks
There haven’t been many leaks and rumors around watchOS 8 ahead of its official unveiling, but we have heard that a new wellbeing app called Mind could be on the way. We might also see specific Contacts and Tips apps for the Apple Watch with the next smartwatch update too.
What we want to see
While we wait for rumors to roll in, here’s what we want from watchOS 8.
1. Better sleep tracking
People had been calling out for a native sleep tracking feature in watchOS for ages and with watchOS 7 it finally arrived, but it’s limited to say the least.
It doesn’t include information on the time spent in each sleep stage (deep, light, and REM), or correlate your sleep with your bedtimes or stress levels – so the data is both basic and lacking in insights. We want to see this significantly overhauled and improved with watchOS 8.
2. Improvements to hand-washing monitoring
Hand-washing monitoring is a useful feature in pandemic times, and to some extent could be handy even once life returns to normal, but it definitely has room for improvement.
In our Apple Watch 6 review we found that the feature could be erratic in terms of activating, and once it does start tracking it would sometimes pause the timer, even while you’re actually washing your hands – meaning you’d have to wash them for even longer than the feature suggests in order to please it.
Some of this will likely be a hardware issue, with the Apple Watch sensors not being accurate enough, but we’re hopeful that it can be improved on the software side too with watchOS 8.
3. A better on-watch App Store
The Apple Watch has its own App Store these days, but it pales in comparison to the iOS App Store. In our Apple Watch 6 review we noted that the opening screen has no categories to explore, and no tailored recommendations, instead offering just a seemingly random selection of apps.
With watchOS 8 we want to see the App Store – and particularly its home page – become a more welcoming, personalized place. Ideally, one that surfaces apps you’ll actually be interested in.
4. More workouts and sports
With watchOS 7 you can already track all sorts of sports and other workouts, from running to swimming to dancing and beyond, but there are always more activities, and we want even more of them to be trackable with watchOS 8.
Perhaps skiing or climbing for instance. With watchOS 7 you can do some very basic tracking of these things, and third-party apps give you more options, but we want proper workout modes for more activities out of the box.
Apple has now brought widgets to the iPhone, and we’d like to see similar on the Apple Watch. Sure, there’s already complications, and there’s less space on the screen for widgets than there is on a phone, but some could easily be added to the Control Center.
These could both be bigger than complications, and give you access to more widgets at any one time – simply let users scroll or swipe through Control Center pages, and there’s no limit to the shortcuts and information that could be displayed.