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watchOS 7.4 arrives next week: Top Apple Watch upgrades to expect

Gift ideas 2020: Best tech gifts of the year: Apple Watch SE
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Apple Watch is getting a software update you won't want to skip. Based on the latest watchOS 7.4 public beta, new features are coming soon that make every model from the Apple Watch Series 3 to Apple Watch Series 6 more useful.

With watchOS 7.4, you'll be able to use your Apple Watch to authenticate Face ID on your iPhone when you're wearing a face mask. The opt-in feature works similarly to the existing Apple Watch authentication for certain Mac computers.

While I'm still waiting for an iPhone with an in-screen fingerprint scanner — iPhone 13? — allowing my Apple Watch to verify my identity should come in handy in a time when most people are still wearing face coverings.

This tool is especially helpful for faster contactless checkouts with Apple Pay. Im sure I'm not the only one who's tired of bumbling to 'Pay with Passcode' instead in line at the grocery store. 

For unlock with Apple Watch to work, your Apple Watch and your companion iPhone need to be running the latest software versions. Both devices must be password protected, which is a requirement for Apple Pay functionality on either device individually, too.

Within the FaceID and passcode settings on your iPhone, toggle on the unlock with Apple Watch option while your Apple Watch is unlocked. Your iPhone might ask you for your passcode to confirm, but from then on out you should be able to swipe up to unlock with Apple Watch.

When your Apple Watch is used to unlock your iPhone, you'll get a notification and feel haptic feedback on your wrist.

In addition to unlock with Apple Watch, watchOS 7.4 brings support an update to Apple Fitness Plus that lets you cast your workout sessions to an AirPlay-equipped device. That means you can follow along with classes, even without Apple TV. You still need to start the workout from your iPhone or iPad, though.

Lastly, Apple Watch users who update to watchOS 7.4 can expect to see more emojis, the option to change their default music services and few more software enhancements found in iOS 14.5.

Kate Kozuch

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.