Skip to main content

watchOS 9 — the new Apple Watch features we want in 2022

Apple Watch 7 full review
(Image credit: Future)

The next major Apple Watch software update will likely be called watchOS 9 and ship on the rumored Apple Watch 8. Although we don't know much about watchOS 9 yet, we can make some guesses about release date and compatibility based on precedent.

We can start formulating a wish-list of what features we want to see arrive on all the best Apple Watch models eligible for watchOS 9. While watchOS 8 improved on Apple's mental health efforts with a new Mindfulness app and finally delivered support for multiple timers, there's more we hope the smartwatch will offer this year. 

Like clockwork, Apple shows off the progress of its latest watchOS version during the annual Worldwide Developer Conference. At WWDC 2022, we expect watchOS 9 will be previewed alongside iOS 16, new software for the best MacBooks and more.

Here's what we know about watchOS 9 and what it means for current Apple Watch users, plus the features we really want to see materialize. 

watchOS 9 possible release date and beta

This is no confirmed watchOS 9 release date yet. The exact release date of new watchOS versions comes out at the same time Apple announces its new smartwatch; that's usually in the fall.

Before the final version of watchOS 9 rolls out, beta versions will likely be available for both developers and public testers. The developer version usually launches soon after WWDC, while the public version rolls out in mid-summer. For reference, the first public beta version of watchOS 8 came out on July 1, 2021.

watchOS 9 compatibility

As for watchOS 9 compatibility, we don't know whether Apple will extend support for the all the Apple Watch models currently on sale. At the very least, the Apple Watch 7 and Apple Watch SE are all but guaranteed to get watchOS 9. We're less sure about compatibility for the Apple Watch 3, though the four-year-old smartwatch is still sold by Apple.

Apple Watch 4, Apple Watch 5 and Apple Watch 6 users should be eligible for watchOS 9, too. And, as always, the newest watchOS will be free to install. Apple doesn't charge for software updates.

watchOS 9 features: What we hope to see

If you know how to use the Apple Watch, the watchOS 9 experience shouldn't be all that different — just improved and probably offering some new tools. So what are these new watchOS 9 features we expect to see? If past updates are any indication, we can assume Apple is going to introduce some health and fitness upgrades.

We'll likely get deeper Apple Watch integrations with HomeKit, Apple Wallet and Apple Fitness Plus. The watchOS 9 software could introduce a new native app for Apple Watch, too. 

Health app: If there's one app currently missing from the Apple Watch experience, it's the Health app. The Health app on your iPhone acts as a dashboard for all your wellness data, from your sleep metics and daily workout progress to noise notifications and symptom tracking. Since a sizable chunk of this information is gathered from your Apple Watch, it would make sense for a similar dashboard to be available on your wrist. Right now, you can see your sleep tracking, heart rate trends, and activity all in separate apps. Why not provide a destination that combines them?

Notes app: Besides the Health app, the app we'd really like to see on the Apple Watch is a native Notes program. Ideally, the Apple Watch Notes app would sync via iCloud with the Notes app on your iPhone. Whether you need to remember your shopping items, create a to-do list or jot down a creative idea, having a Notes app would let you do so without needing your iPhone. Similarly, you could reference your notes you wrote on your iPhone from your wrist. You can use one of the best Apple Watch apps for note-taking, but a native version would be better, especially now that the Apple Watch 7 has a QWERTY keyboard.

Keyboard for more Apple Watch models: On that note, one of the biggest upgrades between the Apple Watch 7 vs. Apple Watch 6 is the addition of a full QWERTY keyboard. We love the keyboard for sending texts (it's much better than using Scribble) but it's limited to the new Apple Watch 7 sizes. We'd like for the keyboard to come to older Apple Watch models so more Apple Watch users can benefit from on-wrist typing.

Recovery tools: The Apple Watch rings are great for tracking daily activity goals, but sometimes your body just needs a break. We want the Apple Watch to offer the occasional day off without sacrificing your streaks, perhaps informed by your sleep data or other health metrics. Rest is an important element of any workout regimen. 

Be sure to bookmark this page for the latest watchOS 9 rumors leading up to the software's official reveal. 

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.