Apple officially announced its newest version of The smartwatch operating system at its annual World Wide Developer’s Conference in June, and WatchOS 5 will bring some huge changes and additions to the Apple Watch. There’s a new walkie-talkie mode, improved health tracking features, and more — and the OS is likely to fuel the unannounced but widely anticipated Apple Watch Series 4.
Apple released a beta of WatchOS 5 to developers immediately after the WWDC keynote; the ninth beta was just released to developers, and a final version is likely imminent. We don’t recommend installing the developer beta on your Apple Watch, and we don’t anticipate a public beta of WatchOS 5, so here’s a sneak peek at what to expect when it’s available later this year.
Health and fitness tracking improvements
Apple is putting a huge emphasis on ensuring fitness tracking data is accurate in WatchOS 5. The company studied more than seven terabytes of fitness data from more than 12,000 participants to make sure its tracking measurements are on point.
You’ll also find a new competition mode on WatchOS 5. The mode allows you to enter a seven-day competition with a friend. You can track both you and your friends’ progress during the competition and the winner will win an Apple Watch award.
WatchOS 5 also features new fitness modes. Yoga mode will track your activity via the heart rate monitor, and a Hiking mode will use your pace and elevation to better determine the number of calories burned.
Runners will see improvements as well. Running mode now offers a custom pace alert, tracks your cadence, and even provides time data on the previous mile run.
Finally, you’ll see new start and end workout alerts. WatchOS 5 will use your heart rate data to determine when you’ve begun a workout. When you reach a heart rate or time goal, it will offer an end alert on the home screen.
WatchOS 5 brings several awesome communications improvements. First off is the new Walkie-Talkie mode. With Walkie-Talkie, you can add friends to your Apple Watch and communicate with them directly by tapping the Talk button within the Walkie-Talkie app.
Your Siri watch face will also get a huge update as well. The new Siri watch face will provide more information on your favorite sports teams, and offer commute and traffic information, as well as heart-rate data.
Siri Shortcuts have also been added in WatchOS 5. With Siri Shortcuts, you can do things like check into your flight, extend a restaurant reservation, or even order coffee.
WatchOS 5 is finally adding a Podcast app, too. This app will automatically download your favorite podcasts directly to your Apple Watch, meaning you no longer need your phone to listen to your favorite shows.
Another addition that has been long awaited is WebKit. With WebKit, you will be able to view webpages from Messages or emails.
Finally, there’s no need to say “Hey Siri” anymore in WatchOS 5. Now you can simply raise your wrist to your mouth and Siri will automatically be listening.
New watch band and faces for Pride month
Apple introduced a Pride edition watch band. Both the band and faces are currently available. You can purchase the band online, and the watch face is available in WatchOS 4.
As long as you’re not the proud owner of a first-generation Apple Watch, you’ll receive WatchOS 5 later this year. While WatchOS 5 will be available as a developer’s beta for the next few months, we wouldn’t recommend downloading it to your Apple Watch unless you’re willing to brick your device.
Updated on August 25: Beta 9 of the developer OS is out, and a release of the final software is likely imminent.