The Best watchOS 8 Features for Apple Watch

BY Sanuj Bhatia

Published 8 Jun 2021

watchOS 8 Features

Apple announced watchOS 8 during the opening keynote of the WWDC 2021. watchOS 8 builds on already feature-rich watchOS 7 and brings many new improvements and refinements to the Apple Watch operating system. Read along to learn all the top watchOS 8 features coming to all compatible Apple Watch models later this year.

watchOS 8 brings many enhancements and subtle tweaks to Apple Watch. These improvements include the new Mindfulness app that helps you focus better, new tools for communication in Messages, a one-stop control center for HomeKit devices, and more.

watchOS 8 is compatible with all of the Apple Watch models that watchOS 7 supported. This means you can use these features on Apple Watch models from Apple Watch Series 3 all the way to the latest Apple Watch Series 6.

These are some of the best watchOS 8 features that make the Apple Watch user experience even better.

1. Mindfulness App

Mindfulnes app

Apple introduced the Breath with watchOS 3. It lets you meditate and relieve stress without the need of going to meditation centers. With watchOS 8, Apple is stepping up the game by the introduction of the new Mindfulness app that will replace the existing Breath app.

Mindfulness app has new features that help you focus better. The new addition called Reflect encourages you to take one minute from your busy schedule and prompts users to create a positive frame of mind. Apple says that during the Reflect session, a user can recall the things they’re grateful for or think of something that soothes their mind. It also has new animations that urgers user to open the Mindfulness app at least once every day.

2. Respiratory Rate Tracking While Sleeping

Reparatory tracking sleep watchOS 8

With watchOS 7, Apple introduced Sleep Tracking. It let you see how much time you spent sleeping, however, it doesn’t let you see the quality of sleep or if there were any disturbances in your sleep. In another effort to improve user’s quality of sleep, Apple has introduced the respiratory rate tracking feature with watchOS 8.

It shows how many breaths you’re taking during sleep, the range of it, and even the daily average. The Health app on iPhone now has a label that shows the ‘Trend,’ which basically tells you whether you’re having a ‘Consistent’ number of breaths throughout your sleep or not. It may also show ‘Inconsistent’ if you’re having many disturbances during your sleep.

3. Control HomeKit Devices With New Home App for Apple Watch

new home app watchOS 8 doorbellnew home app watchOS 8 suggested actions

One of the major updates that Apple has included in the watchOS 8 is the new Home app for Apple Watch. Your Apple Watch can now suggest actions based on the devices around you. For example, if you’re near your doorbell, and if you pull up your Apple Watch, the Home app will show a live feed of your doorbell camera, as well as allow you to talk to the person standing outside.

Similarly, watchOS 8 can also suggest you to perform actions depending upon the time of the day. For example, turning off lights when it is Bed Time, among others. The new watchOS 8 Home app also features a direct button for HomePod’s Intercom feature.

4. New Apple Wallet Features 

new wallet app watchOS 8

Apple is adding more ways of turning your Watch into an all-in-one digital wallet. The Apple Watch already supports Apple Pay, and now with watchOS 8, the company has added a new feature that makes adding new keys to Apple Watch easier than ever. You can add keys like a home key, office key, and hotel key to the Wallet app and use their Apple Watch to unlock them.

Apple is also adding an ability that lets you store IDs like Driver’s License directly in the Apple Wallet app. Apple says that the feature will be available in the select US States in the coming months.

5. Set Multiple Timers

You can finally set multiple timers on Apple Watch with watchOS 8. Simply start a timer and then ask Siri again to start a new timer. All of the timers will show up on the watchOS 8 Lock Screen as well as in the Clock app. You can even label timers like “Laundry Timer” or “Cooking Timer” to differentiate between them.

6. Features for Messages, New Contacts App

new messages on Apple Watch

Messages is getting a huge upgrade this year. While Apple isn’t adding the keyboard to the watchOS Messages app, it’s adding features that make Messages a lot more fun. You can now use Scribble, emojis, and dictation to compose the same message, as well as use the Digital Crown to micro-control the editing cursor.

Apple has also added GIF support to Messages on watchOS. Apple Watch users can enter a word or phrase and select from hundreds of trending GIFs. watchOS 8 also introduces Contacts app to the Apple Watch. You can now create, edit, share contacts directly from the Contacts app on Apple Watch.

7. AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch

assistive touch on Apple Watch

Apple will be debuting the accessibility features it announced before WWDC 2021. The list of features includes AssistiveTouch that will make it easier for people with limited mobility to use the Apple Watch. AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch uses the in-built gyroscope and accelerometer sensors which makes it easier for people to use their Apple Watch ever having to touch the display or controls.

With watchOS 8, Apple Watch can detect differences in muscle movement and tendon activity which enables the user to move the cursor. Users can perform hand gestures like a pinch or a clench to move around the OS.

8. Portrait Watch Faces and New Photos App

portrait watch face Apple Watch

Apple has redesigned the Photos app in watchOS 8. It is now easier to view and navigate photo collections. Moreover, Memories and Featured Photos sync to the Apple Watch from the iOS app.

watchOS 8 also features a new portrait watch face. Apple says that the custom photo watch face is the most popular watch face on Apple Watch, and now, it will create a more portrait-style watch face that focuses on the photo subject by blurring the background. Elements like the timestamp and the date adjust to the photo you choose.

9. Focus Mode 

focus mode watchOS 8

watchOS 8 borrows the Focus Mode from iOS 15. This mode will help users stay more focused by filtering out the notification on Apple Watch. It automatically aligns with any Focus mode set on iOS 15, so that notifications from people and apps are filtered based on what a user is currently doing.

watchOS 8 also suggests focus mode based on the user’s activity. For example, when you start a workout on Apple Watch, the Watch will ask you to enable Focus for Fitness.

10. New Workouts Types and Trainers

watchos 8 tai chi

watchOS 8 features new workout types called Tai Chi and Pilates. These new workouts are ‘beneficial for both physical fitness and mindful movement,’ says Apple. The company is also adding new workouts in Apple Fitness+ with training sessions from popular trainers like Jeanette Jenkins.

Tai Chi is a form of Chinese martial art that is referred to as “meditation in motion,” promoting a more peaceful state of mind as well as body movement.

11. Improvements to Always on Display 

With watchOS 8, Apple has also added minor improvements to the Always-On display on Apple Watch. More apps support the Always-On display now, like Maps, Mindfulness, Now Playing, Phone, Stopwatch, Timers, Voice Memos, and others. Apple has also added an API that enables third-party developers to integrate Always-On Display in their apps.

12. Find Items Directly From Apple Watch

And finally, Apple will let you keep track of Find My Items, like AirTag, and the new Chipolo One Spot, directly from the Apple Watch. There’s also a new Find Devices app that helps users locate lost Apple devices that are signed in with the same Apple ID.

watchOS 8 will be released alongside iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey ‘in the fall.’ If you’re really eager to try these features, you can go ahead and install the watchOS 8 beta on your Apple Watch. Remember, to install watchOS 8 on your Apple Watch, you need to update your iPhone to iOS 15.

What is your favorite watchOS 8 feature? Are you planning to install watchOS 8 right away, or are you waiting for the stable release? Let us know in the comments section below!