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watchOS 8.5 is out now — all the new features for your Apple Watch

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(Image credit: Future)

The Apple Watch just got a little bit smarter. Users can now update to watchOS 8.5 to get some new features on their wrist, like the ability to authorize Apple TV purchases via Apple Watch, improvements to irregular heart rhythm detection, a new Apple Fitness Plus accessibility tool and more.

The latest version of watchOS 8 arrives alongside iOS 15.4, which notably (and finally) lets users unlock their iPhones via Face ID while wearing face masks. That’s different from the ability to unlock an iPhone with an Apple Watch which arrived as part of the iOS 14.5 update a year ago. 

As the best smartwatch on the market, the Apple Watch gets regular updates — and not just for the latest Apple Watch 7. All the best Apple Watch models available for purchase support watchOS 8, making them eligible for watchOS 8.5’s new features.

Below we’ve outlined all the upgrades for the Apple Watch available now. So, ready to get started with watchOS 8.5? See our guide on how to update your Apple Watch, plus everything else you’ll want to know about how to use the Apple Watch

Authorize Apple TV purchases with Apple Watch

With watchOS 8.5 users can now authorize purchases using their Apple Watch. Whether you want to launch an Apple TV Plus subscription to watch the best Apple TV Plus shows and movies, or just want to rent a brand-new blockbuster, you can validate the purchase from your wrist. 

Some of the best Apple Watch apps already let you use the smartwatch as an authenticator, but this new feature provides further integration and ease-of-use within Apple’s ecosystem. It seems especially helpful when your iPhone is out of reach.

Irregular heart rate rhythm detection improvements

According to the watchOS 8.5 information page, the software update delivers, “updates to irregular rhythm notifications designed to improve atrial fibrillation identification.” 

It’s not exactly clear what the update changes or improves, though it should specifically apply to the Apple Watch 4 and newer (with the exception of the Apple Watch SE.) Apple Watch models with electrocardiogram sensors could already pick up on irregular heart rhythms and take on-demand ECG exams.

Audio hints in Apple Fitness Plus

Apple Fitness Plus, the $9.99/month on-demand workout service, has a new accessibility feature in watchOS 8.5, making it easier for all users to close their Apple Watch rings. Classes will now support audio hints that provide “audio commentary of visually demonstrated moves during workouts.” 

That’s not the only tool helping more people use Apple Fitness Plus — the app previously built an Outdoor Wheelchair Walk Pace workout into the service’s Time to Walk feature

Vaccination cards for EU customers

Though the availability of digital COVID-19 vaccination cards has varied in different regions, those in the U.S. could already stow and show their vaccination status in their Apple Watch wallet. Now European customers will benefit from the same convenience, supporting the EU Digital COVID Certificate format. 

Considering a new Apple Watch? See the best Apple Watch deals now.  

Kate Kozuch is a senior writer at Tom’s Guide covering wearables, TVs and everything smart-home related. When she’s not in cyborg mode, you can find her on an exercise bike or channeling her inner celebrity chef. She and her robot army will rule the world one day, but until then, reach her at kate.kozuch@futurenet.com.