better texting, portrait watch faces and more – .

better texting, portrait watch faces and more – .

WatchOS 8 will bring a number of new features to Apple Watches over the coming months, including overnight breath tracking, new mindfulness features, watch faces, texting tools, and more.

The next-generation smartwatch operating system won’t officially be released until the fall, but if you’re brave, you can try it out right now. While developers have had access to the software since June, Apple just released the first public beta of watchOS 8, and I couldn’t wait to check it out.

Beta software is free to download on Apple Watch Series 3 and later. To get the upgrade, your Apple Watch will need to be paired with an iPhone 6s or later running the public beta of iOS 15.

Before you jump in, be aware that once you install the public beta, you won’t be able to restore your Apple Watch software to an older version, which could mean dealing with some bugs until they are resolved. The good news is that I haven’t encountered any major performance issues so far.

How to get WatchOS 8

It took about an hour and a half for the public beta to set up on my Apple Watch Series 6. First you need to register your iPhone in the iOS 15 beta program and install it on your device. On my iPhone 12 Pro Max, this step took most of the time, around an hour. Once done, you can enroll your Apple Watch in the beta software program and then download and install watchOS 8.

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If this sounds like too much trouble, don’t worry. When the software arrives for the general public this fall, the download and installation process will be much easier.

Watch face portraits

One of my first priorities after downloading watchOS 8 was to try out the new Portraits watch face.

In the Watch app on your iPhone, you can select up to 24 of your favorite Portrait mode shots and turn them into watch faces. Once you’ve picked a winner, you can move and resize the image, and choose whether you want the time to appear at the top or bottom of the screen.

You can then choose from three different text styles for the time: classic, modern, or rounded, and optionally add the date, as well as another complication such as battery life, heart rate, or the Siri shortcut. My dog ​​Bradley always makes me smile, so I used a portrait of him. I opted for the classic text option for the time, which I positioned at the bottom of the screen, with the date below.

(Photo : Angela Moscaritolo)

Once added to your watch, the Portrait mode photo will zoom in slightly when you lift your wrist or use the digital crown. Apple says the existing Photos watch face is the most popular choice, so I’m sure the new Portrait option will be a hit.

New SMS features

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(Photo : Angela Moscaritolo)

Texting from Apple Watch isn’t always the easiest, but watchOS 8 should help streamline the process. When composing a message, you can now doodle, dictate and add emojis from the same screen. You can, for example, tap the microphone icon to start dictating a message, then switch to Scribble to spell a word, then add an emoji before tapping send.

The new text composition screen is fairly intuitive, but it will take some getting used to. While testing, I accidentally hit send on some texts before I finished composing them.

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(Photo : Angela Moscaritolo)

Meanwhile, if you spot an error in a dictated message, you can now use the digital crown to move the onscreen cursor to the offending location for editing, a feature that I find very useful and easy to use. . Apple says dictation is one of the most popular ways to communicate using the Apple Watch, and everyone knows it can be random, so this feature will undoubtedly prove to be useful to many. more people than me.

Overall, I still find it easier to text from my phone, but these new features definitely improve the messaging experience on your watch.

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(Photo : Angela Moscaritolo)

And best of all, when you don’t feel like using words and emojis, you can send a GIF from your Apple Watch. To do so, just tap the A symbol in a message and then tap the magnifying glass to browse or find a GIF.

Find your zen

With watchOS 8, Apple introduces a new tool to help you relax and regain your zen. Located inside the Mindfulness app (formerly known as Breathe) is a new type of session called Reflect.

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(Photo : Angela Moscaritolo)

When I tried a one-minute Reflect session, the watch offered the following meditation prompt: “Think about a time when you quietly listened to someone else,” she encouraged. “Consider how it enriched your experience. ”

When you tap Start, the watch displays delightfully colorful and trippy animation on the screen to help you relax. At the end of the session, the watch offered a few tips: “Stay open to learning from others”, before showing my heart rate.

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(Photo : Angela Moscaritolo)

As a yogi, I love the new meditation prompts and animations, and I think Steve Jobs would have approved. In addition to these new Reflect sessions, the Mindfulness app still offers its classic guided breathing exercise with updated visuals.

Night breathing monitoring

Last year’s WatchOS 7 brought sleep tracking to the Apple Watch, and now watchOS 8 adds a new nighttime metric: your respiratory rate. Thanks to its built-in accelerometer, the watch will measure the number of breaths you take per minute while you sleep.

To receive this data, you need to turn on sleep tracking on Apple Watch when you wear it to bed (visit Settings on the watch, scroll down and tap Sleep, then turn on Sleep tracking). Then in the morning, you can view your respiratory rate information for the previous night, as well as your trends over time, in the Health app.

The first night I tested this feature on my Series 6, I got an interesting result, probably because I had received my second injection of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on the same day. From my testing on other breath tracking devices, including the Google Nest Hub (2nd gen) and the Fitbit Luxe, I already know that I average around 14 to 15 breaths per minute while sleeping. , but I was interested to see if the post-vaccine side effects might have an impact on that.

Screenshots of the Health app
Screenshots of the Health app

That night I experienced several of the post-vaccine side effects you hear about: headache, muscle pain, and I believe I had a fever at times as well. Unsurprisingly, my nighttime respiratory rate hit 21.4 breaths per minute, according to my Apple Watch Series 6. The watch measured my hourly average of 16.1 to 20.6 breaths per minute.

I got a similar result from the Nest Hub, which averaged my respiratory rate overnight at 18 breaths per minute that night. Apple Watch gives you a lot more information about your respiratory rate than the Nest Hub, which simply shows your nightly average.

respiratory data from Nest Hub
The Google Nest Hub offered a similar respiratory rate result

In the Health app, Apple says that a respiratory rate of 12 to 20 breaths per minute when you are awake and moving is “generally considered normal for an adult.” Factors such as training, sleep, and “a wide variety of medical conditions” (including fever) can affect your breathing rate, so it’s no surprise mine increased when I was experiencing post-side effects. -vaccines. Fortunately, these side effects seem to be subsiding already, so I’m sure my breathing rate will return to normal soon.

Other new features

WatchOS 8 is a major release with many other new features including support for home and hotel room digital keys, an updated Home app that promises to make it easier to control compatible smart home devices, new workout tracking options (for Pilates and Tai Chi), and more. I’m only scratching the surface of what that entails in this first look, so be sure to check out our watchOS 8 coverage when it officially arrives this fall.

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