Today Apple also announced watchOS 5, the next major update to its operating system for the Apple Watch. watchOS 5 maintains Apple’s focus on health and fitness features and connectivity, with the addition of a social activity feature and several new workouts, a new two-way “walkie talkie” communication feature, and several other improvements.
watchOS 5 expands the current features allowing sharing of activity rings with friends by adding new Competitions, which enable users to challenge their friends to seven-day competitions to hit an activity goal. Users can track each other’s progress during the competition, and receive awards when they win.
Workouts have also been enhanced in watchOS 5, with a new yoga workout that works primarily from heart rate, calibrated to the user’s fitness level throughout the rest of the day. A new hiking workout type accounts pace, heart rate and elevation gain, and is designed with steep terrain in mind. The outdoor run workout has also been expanded with more running features, including a “Rolling Mile Pace” to show how fast the user ran the immediately preceding mile, a custom pace alert for when the user is above or below a set pace, and cadence will show current steps per minute. A new automatic workout detection features will alert users to start a workout whenever the Apple Watch senses one beginning, and even provides retroactive credit if the user presses start after they’ve already started their workout. End alerts have also been added to alert users to end their workout once the device senses that the activity level has dropped.
watchOS 5 also features a new Walkie-talkie mode that will pairs up two users to quickly talk back and forth over cellular or Wi-Fi with a simple press-to-talk button.
The Siri watch face also gains several improvements, including the addition of sports, maps, and heart rate, along with iOS 12 Siri Shortcuts that provide predicted shortcut info right on the watch face, based on actions the user typically does at repeated times. APIs are also now available to allow third-party apps to show up on the Siri watch face. “Hey Siri” also gets removed from the Apple Watch in watchOS 5, since Apple has determined that raising the wrist to talk is enough of a signal to make Siri begin listening.
watchOS 5 will also bring more actionable and interactive notifications, allowing features such as checking in, paying with Apple Pay, and extending reservations directly in the notification, similar to how rich notifications already work on the iOS side. Webkit also comes to watchOS 5, allowing users to view web content in Mail or Messages, formatted for the small screen, and using Reader mode where possible.
The Podcasts app will also come to the Apple Watch in watchOS 5. Upcoming episodes from subscribed podcasts will be automatically synced to the watch, and users can ask Siri to stream a podcast on demand. Playback status will of course sync across all devices.
Apple is also introducing support for Student ID cards are supported universities, allowing NFC-based student cards to be stored in the Wallet app and used for things like unlocking dormitory rooms, paying for items at campus stores and restaurants, checking in for classes and exams, and more. Six universities will be supported at the time of release, with more expected to come in the future.