WWDC 2020: watchOS 7 gets a makeover with new personalization, health, sleep and fitness for Apple Watch

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Automatic handwashing detection and watch face sharing are two of the new features on watchOS 7 coming out this fall.

Image: Apple Inc.

Long-awaited features are being added to Apple Watch with a preview of watchOS 7 on Monday at WWDC 2020

Some of the new features include watch face sharing, sleep tracking, automatic handwashing detection and a hearing health feature. There’s also additional workout types such as dance, and Maps is being updated with cycling directions and language translation through Siri. All of these features will be available this fall when the watchOS 7 rollout is offered to Apple Watch users.

Multiple watch apps, which Apple calls complications, can be enabled on a watch face with watchOS 7, according to Kevin Lynch, Apple vice president of technology.

“Until today, an app could appear in only one spot at a time on a watch face. In watchOS 7, developers can enable multiple complications, making even more richly personal watch faces,” Lynch said during WWDC 2020.

Developers can share watch faces as well. “As developers with WatchOS 7, you can now build your rich complications with native Swift UI. While there are so many ways to configure watch faces, you may not have gone in and set these up for yourself yet. That’s okay. With WatchOS 7, we’re making it super easy to share watch faces so you can discover a face that works perfectly for you. To do this, we’re introducing face sharing. You’ll be able to discover curated faces with third party apps on the App Store or discover a new favorite watch face right on a website or receive watch faces directly from friends and family,” Lynch said.

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Developers will be able to offer preconfigured watch faces directly from their apps, and they can share them across social media, Lynch said.

Sleep tracking app

Image: Apple Inc.

Brand new to Apple is a Sleep app. Before, users had to use third-party apps to track sleep. 

The watch will automatically turn on Do Not Disturb and keep the screen from waking when the user goes to bed. A sleep analysis chart will show how much sleep the wearer has had in the past week using the accelerometer to track sleep. 

There’s a Wind Down that allows Apple Watch and iPhone users to create a customized routine before bed that includes setting up a specific scene in the Home app or using a meditation app or listening to soothing music. 

Since many people use their sleeping time to charge their Apple Watch, now they’ll get a notification if their battery is below 30% near bedtime. If they opt to charge it after waking up, they’ll get an iPhone notification when the watch is at 100%. 

Sleep data is encrypted on the device or in iCloud with iCloud sync. 

Health app features

The Health app features introduced with watchOS 6 such as the ECG and fall detection were valuable, but now there’s automatic handwashing detection and a new hearing feature. 

“In watchOS 7, Apple Watch is the first watch to deliver automatic detection when you start washing your hands and sensing of how long you’ve actually washed. Our approach here is using machine learning models to determine motion which appears to be handwashing, and then use audio to confirm the sound of running water or squishing soap on your hands,” Lynch said. 

Once handwashing is sensed by watchOS 7, a 20-second countdown timer begins. If the user finishes early, they’ll be prompted to keep washing their hands. The Apple Watch can also remind someone to wash their hands when they return home. 

Handwashing frequency and duration can be tracked via the app. 

Image: Apple Inc.

The Noise app was introduced in watchOS 6 to measure ambient sound levels and duration of exposure, and watchOS 7 expands upon that with headphone audio notifications. This allows users to know how loudly they’re listening to media through their headphones and the impact on hearing over time. 

There are also new mobility metrics available in the Health app including low-range cardio fitness, walking speed, stair-descent speed, stair-ascent speed, six-minute walk distance, double support time, step length, and asymmetry. The clinical community can use these metrics to monitor patients’ ability to move safely and easily as they age. Developers such as Zimmer Biomet, a musculoskeletal healthcare company, use these metrics in patient care and in management tools such as mymobility.

Workout app 

There are additional workout types supported by the Workout app: Core Training, Dance, Functional Strength Training and Cooldown. 

Advanced sensor fusion that combines data from the heart rate sensor and inputs from the accelerometer and gyroscope are used to capture calorie exertion for Dance. Four dance styles were used to validate this exercise: Bollywood, cardio dance, hip-hop and Latin.

The section currently labeled Activity in watchOS 6 will be renamed Fitness in watchOS 7. There will be a view of data including daily workouts, award and activity trends. 

Other updates to watchOS 7 include:

  • Siri can translate languages directly from the wrist.
  • Developers can create graphic complications with SwiftUI.
  • New developer tools such as Xcode Previews make building complications easier.
  • New complications for native features include Camera Remote, Sleep and Shortcuts.

The developer beta of watchOS 7 is available to Apple Developer Program members at developer.apple.com starting on Monday. For the first time, a public beta will be available to watchOS users next month at beta.apple.com

WatchOS 7 will be available this fall as a free software update for Apple Watch Series 3, Apple Watch Series 4 or Apple Watch Series 5 paired with iPhone 6s or later running iOS 14 or later. 

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