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watchOS 7 release date, compatibility, beta, sleep tracking, new faces and more

watchOS 7 release date, compatibility, beta, sleep tracking, new faces and more
(Image credit: Apple)

The watchOS 7 Apple Watch software update has just been announced at WWDC 2020, and there are plenty of big features we can expect to see when the newest wearable OS goes live in the fall. 

WatchOS 7 will ship on the new Apple Watch 6 and offer compatibility with select older models, so you might be wondering what you can expect from the company’s refreshed wearable operating system. Apple delved into its new apps, watch faces and sleep tracking (finally) at WWDC, where we learned about watchOS 7's exciting changes, as well as the latest news on iOS 14.

Although what we've seen at WWDC isn’t a final product, it does tell us about what the next year of wearable computing will hold. As one of the best smartwatches and best fitness trackers around, the Apple Watch brand often paves the way for competitors with every new iteration.

Here's everything we know about watchOS 7 so far, and what the refreshed system will bring to your current Apple Watch as well as the next-generation Apple Watch that’s debuting in the fall.

watchOS 7 release date

Apple has not given watchOS 7 an official release date. However, we expect Apple will be vague about the watchOS 7 timeline (and the timelines of its other fall releases) given the rumored production delays. Whenever the Apple Watch 6 launches, watchOS 7 probably will, too. 

Last year watchOS 6 became available to download in September and came pre-installed on the Apple Watch Series 5. Users running an iPhone 6s or later with iOS 13 could get the update, but didn’t benefit from all the features unless they owned a newer Watch model.

watchOS 7 compatibility: Is your Apple Watch compatible?

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, it's safe to say your model will be compatible.

watchOS 7

(Image credit: Apple)

watchOS 7 sleep tracking: Here's how it works

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. 

watchOS 7

(Image credit: Apple)

watchOS 7 new 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. 

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

(Image credit: Apple)

watchOS 7 new Fitness app and dance workout support

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. 

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. 

watchOS 7 mental health and other rumored features

What new features are coming to the Apple Watch OS? If past updates are any indication, we can assume Apple is going to introduce a slew of health and fitness upgrades. Several leaks from reputable sources also confirm Apple is upping the ante when it comes to personal wellness. Here’s what we know:

Battery life management: It’s likely watchOS 7 will support tools that extend your Apple Watch’s battery life. While a software update can’t actually increase your smartwatch’s battery size, it can help manage apps and provide improved low-power modes that let you go longer without a charge. The Apple Watch 6 and its new chip will likely benefit the most from these enhancements, though.

Mental health and panic attack detection tools: A number of signs point to Apple debuting a library of mental health features in watchOS 7. According to leaker Max Weinbach and YouTube channel EverythingApplePro, Apple is working on making its wearables better at spotting the early signs of stress or panic using built-in sensors. These tools could function in hand with the Apple Watch 4 and 5’s electrical heart sensor, as well as incorporate the rumored SpO2 pulse oximeter coming to the Apple Watch 6.

Parental controls: Those with kids might be interested to hear that watchOS 7 could beef up parental controls. The Apple Watch isn’t the most popular kid’s accessory, but it’s smart to have some availability of parental oversight for younger smartwatch users. We believe watchOS 7 will enable an iPhone to monitor both an adult user's iPhone as well as their kid's Apple Watch. It would also include, naturally, parental controls for contacting others.

Personalized faces from your photos: It’s suspected that you’ll be able to use images from your Photos to design your very own watch face with watchOS 7. You can pick from either individual photos, personal albums and shared albums. And if you use the two latter ones, you can set the face to switch photos every time you look at the watch, which is a pretty neat feature if you are into that kind of thing.

watchOS 7 beta: Should I download it?

For the first time in watchOS history, the watchOS 7 beta will be available to the public. In the past, unlike with iOS, macOS and tvOS betas, the watchOS beta has been developer-only. 

Downloading beta versions invites a few risks and we don’t recommend it unless you’re willing to deal with buggy software. 

The advice we give with any beta applies to watchOS 7: Only install the beta on a watch you don't need for everyday use. Keep in mind that you’ll also need to pair the watch to an iPhone running developer beta for it to work, so you’re risking the reliability of a couple of different devices by committing to unpolished versions of watchOS 7.