watchOS 7 release date, compatibility, sleep tracking, faces and features

(Image credit: Apple)

The watchOS 7 software bring several new features to the Apple Watch, the most important of which you can read up on in our Apple Watch 6 review and Apple Watch SE review.

The software will ship on both these new watches, as well as offer compatibility with select older models. So you might be wondering what you can expect from the company’s refreshed wearable operating system. New workout presets, watch faces, a hand washing tool and sleep tracking are among the key features that have caught our attention so far.

Here's everything else we know about watchOS 7 so far, and what the refreshed system will bring to your current Apple Watch as well as the new Apple Watch 6 and Apple Watch SE.

watchOS 7 release date

WatchOS 7 released on September 16, 2020.

How to download watchOS 7

Downloading watchOS 7 is simple, so long as you have a compatible model. On your iPhone, open the Apple Watch app and go to General > Software Update. If the availability of watchOS 7 doesn't show up automatically, search from update. 

Follow the on-screen instructions to install watchOS 7 on your Apple Watch. Keep in mind that your watch will need to be connected to Wi-Fi and at least halfway charged.

watchOS 7 compatibility

Apple has been dedicated to supporting even the first Apple Watch, but 5 years later we're seeing the company end update compatibility for its older smartwatches. While Older Apple Watch models will still work, they will not be able to receive watchOS 7. Besides, several new software features rely on internal hardware to work. 

At WWDC it was revealed that watchOS 7 won't be available to Series 1 and Series 2 models. If you have an Apple Watch Series 3 or above, your model will be compatible.

Of course, the software is compatible with the new Apple Watch 6 and Apple Watch SE, too.

watchOS 7

(Image credit: Apple)

watchOS 7 sleep tracking

Get your sleep masks ready — after long last, sleep tracking is coming to the Apple Watch. The new sleep app works with new preset shortcuts for the Apple Watch called Wind Down and Wake Up. Wind Down will make soften the appearance of your iPhone's interface and enable Do Not Disturb. Then, when you initiate sleep mode on your wrist, your Apple Watch screen turns off and will display a simple, low-color clock if you tap it in the middle of the night. 

When it's time to wake up, you can choose from a haptics or sounds to get your morning started. You'll immediately see the time and your watch's battery level on your wrist, so you know to charge it up before heading out for the day.

Apple hasn't said much about how the feature will work, but we'll probably learn more when the Watch 6 is announced. 

Here at the best Apple Watch sleep tracking apps to try out in the meantime. 

watchOS 7

(Image credit: Apple)

WatchOS 7 watch faces and Face Sharing

Apple created a few a new watch faces for watchOS 7. The first is a refreshed version of Chronograph that introduces a tachymeter, an analog watch piece that measures speed and distance based on travel time.

It also showed off a fun, extra large watch face with a single complication slot that strikes a balance between ultimate minimalism and seeing that one bit of information you need at a glance. We also saw new typographic and color-block options at the Apple Watch 6 launch event.

And for those of us who want to show our watch face customizations, watchOS 7 is introducing Face Sharing. You can install watch face complications from a website, or copy ones your friends and family use. 

When you see one you like, you'll be able to press "Add watch face" and be asked to download any apps you don't have already. To share yours, long press your watch face and you'll have the option to send it to a contact. You can share them across social media, too. 

WatchOS 7 mobility metrics

A new section is coming to the Health app — Mobility. Aimed at older Apple Watch wearers, Mobility Metrics keep tabs on walking speed, stair-descent speed, stair-ascent speed, six-minute walk distance, double support time, stride length and step asymmetry. 

This data is usually gathered in an in-person lab setting, but now the Apple Watch can help detect potential problems with mobility, even if they're not obvious to the naked eye.

watchOS 7

(Image credit: Apple)

watchOS 7 new Fitness app, Apple Fitness Plus

So long Activity app, hello Fitness. The renamed and redesigned movement tracking app will help users follow their workout progress using summary tabs. 

New workout presets include core training, functional strength training, cool down and dance. Whether you're into hip hop, latin, bollywood or cardio dance, your watch will be able to award accurate credit for all the moving and grooving you've got going on. 

Later this year, Apple Fitness Plus will be coming to Apple Watch customers. The workout subscription service offers 10 types of classes taught by real instructors. Apple Fitness Plus costs $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year, although new Apple Watch owners will get 3 months free.

watchOS 7

(Image credit: Apple)

watchOS 7 hand washing

Talk about a well-timed feature — watchOS 7 will introduce a hand washing that uses automatic detection to figure out when you're scrubbing your paws. Based on the motion of your hands and and sound of tap water flowing, a countdown with haptics will begin to make sure you're washing for the recommended 20 seconds.

If you stop too early, your Apple Watch will ask you if you're sure your hand are clean. It sounds like this could get annoying, but we can't complain about practicing better hygiene. 

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.