Apple demonstrated a host of useful new features that will ship with watchOS 4 at the WWDC 2017 keynote, but as always, they were constrained on time and couldn’t show us everything the update has to offer.

In this piece, well talk about everything we’ve found new in watchOS 4 so far. We’ll include everything Apple demonstrated in addition to lesser-known features that weren’t given the spotlight at the event.

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Improvements to Watch faces

Apple is going a step further with Apple Watch faces by giving you more to choose from. These include:

  • New Buzz Lightyear-themed Toy Story Watch face
  • New Woody-themed Toy Story Watch face
  • New Jessie-themed Toy Story Watch face
  • New Kaleidoscope Watch face
  • New Siri Watch face
  • A couple of new photo-based Watch faces
  • Make a Watch face from any image on your iPhone

Improvements to app features

Apple is also making the use of apps on your Apple Watch more bearable by giving them more capabilities and major performance improvements:

  • Faster loading times for apps
  • App UIs are now more responsive
  • Developers can now make full-screen apps
  • Developers can now make apps that record audio in the background
  • Apps can access your location
  • Apps can access the heart rate sensor in real-time
  • Apps can access the gyroscope and accelerometer in real-time
  • Apps can now perform route mapping and navigation in real time
  • Apps can now access water lock
  • Automatic screen rotation

Improvements for Music

Listening to music with your Apple Watch is about to get a whole lot better thanks to these features:

  • Brand-new Music app
  • Automatic music playback when working out
  • Swipe left to access music during a workout
  • Automatically syncs your favorite music to Apple Watch
  • Support for multiple song playlists
  • Now Playing music persistently shows up on Apple Watch
  • Updated Now Playing complication

Improvements for Mail

If you take emails on your wrist, then you’ll appreciate these new watchOS 4 features:

  • New gestures for the Mail app
  • Quick compose an email
  • New animations

Improvements for Messages

One of the most popular uses of the Apple Watch is to take and answer text messages, and watchOS 4 brings some important new features in this department, such as:

  • New Messages complication shows the number of unread messages
  • Send contacts and current location in new smart replies
  • Send people money through iMessage

Improvements for Apple Pay & NFC

The Apple Watch is NFC-enabled just like the iPhone is, so many of the new improvements to NFC and Apple Pay on iPhone are coming to the Apple Watch as well:

  • Person-to-person Apple Pay payments
  • Apple Pay Cash Card for storing received payments
  • Third-party apps can access the NFC chip

New Siri features

Siri gets smarter in watchOS 4 as she learns the following new features:

  • Siri can now jot things down in the Notes app
  • Siri can now access lists in the Reminders app

New fitness features

Your Apple Watch was built to be a fitness companion, and Apple is giving you more new workout features in watchOS 4 than ever before, including:

  • Personalized activity notifications
  • More daily activity notifications
  • Monthly activity challenges
  • Full-screen celebrations for hard-to-earn achievements
  • New layout for the Workout app
  • Quick-start for workouts
  • Quickly switch between workouts
  • Now calculates VO2 Max when outdoors
  • Do Not Disturb while working out
  • Workouts no longer need to be saved
  • Support for high-intensity interval training
  • Better support for tracking swimming progress
  • Two-way syncing with supported gym equipment
  • New workout segments
  • View high-intensity workout types (calorie, open, timed)
  • Notifications when you close a workout ring during a workout

Support for Core Bluetooth

For the first time, Apple Watch will support Core Bluetooth, which means it can now bypass the iPhone entirely and communicate directly with certain Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as the Dexcom continuous glucose checker.

A new Apple Watch App Store

Apple redesigned the App Store with iOS 11, so you can expect similar changes in watchOS 4 when searching for apps via the Apple Watch app on your iPhone.

News app comes to Apple Watch

Apple has brought the News app from your iPhone to the Apple Watch so you can stay even more intertwined with your favorite news sites – for better or for worse. The app can give you summary-based notifications throughout the day.

Use Apple Watch as a flashlight

If you’re wearing your Apple Watch and your iPhone is nowhere to be found, you can now use your Apple Watch as a flashlight thanks to a new Control Center toggle button. There are three modes, including white, red, and strobe.

Format the Home screen as a list

When the Apple Watch launched with its honeycomb-like Home screen, there were mixed reactions about it. Apple now lets you go into a scrollable list-mode Home screen instead, which may be better for those with larger fingers or accessibility issues.

Redesigned Dock

Apple Watch is known for its Dock, which grants access to your favorite apps even easier, but Apple has redesigned it with a vertical look and feel in watchOS 4.

Improved Timers

Starting with watchOS 4, you will be able to set a sub-minute timer to time yourself with more precise time measurements. You can also take advantage of a repeat function so you can time yourself over and over again.

Improved Heart Rate indicator

Apple Watch is a great way to monitor your heart rate, whether you’re still and at rest or you’re in the middle of a workout. For the first time, watchOS 4 will display your heart rate over time as a graph instead of as live numbers.

Scribble in the Remote app

Those who control their music with the Remote app on their Apple Watch can now use Scribbe in watchOS 4 to ‘type’ the things they’re looking for.

Better notification delivery screen

Apple Watch has always displayed single full-screen notifications as they come in, but watchOS 4 changes that by allowing you to see multiple notifications in the same screen. This will be potentially useful when someone is spam-texting you, as you were previously unable to see the content of every message.

Updated pairing screen

The screen you see when pairing your watchOS 4-enabled Apple Watch with an iOS 11 device will now have a new look and feel.

Tips displayed when syncing

Since your Apple Watch can’t be used in the middle of syncing with your iPhone, Apple has made it so watchOS 4 gives you handy tips and pointers throughout the syncing process so that you have something to look at.

More Camera features

Apple Watch could always be used as a remote control for your iPhone’s Camera, but now it gets the ability to switch between new camera modes like portrait and video so you can get the perfect shot.

Accessibility improvements

Apple noted on one of their WWDC slides that watchOS 4 will come with accessibility improvements, such as timed button presses. Although they didn’t get a chance to demo this feature, we assume this means you can time the side button and Digital Crown presses similarly to the Home button iPhones and iPads.

New passcode button sound

As you enter your passcode on your Apple Watch, you’ll be presented with a satisfying new sound in watchOS 4.

Wrapping up

Although that wraps things up for this list of watchOS 4 features, we’re sure many other hidden Easter eggs will show up between now and the official public release this Fall.

If you enjoyed this list, we also created similar ones for both iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra so you don’t miss out on any of the new features your devices are going to be capable of.

It can be difficult to outline everything in one post, so if we’ve missed anything, we would appreciate if you could let us know in the comments section below. Moreover, let us know what your favorite watchOS 4 feature is, and why!

  • Mohamed Walid Hijazi’

    Very detailed article

  • Fredydeekrueger

    The battery life is still a big no no. Hopefully they can extend this in the future. Awesome article btw.

    • What kind of battery life are you experiencing? My Series 2 can go all day and only see 80% before it hits the charger again.

    • John

      Gosh. We see “complaints” like this with every beta.

      I don’t want to sound like a prick here but you know this is a developers beta and it’s designed to be installed on a non-primary device, right?

      It’s barely a week old. Give it time.

    • Stephen Hedger

      My watch lasts for 3 days without charging. I use 20% in a day. It goes on charge ever night before I go to sleep so the battery is perfect.

  • Francois Nguyen

    I was wondering, does the Apple watch support ambient mode display (as in displaying the time even when the watch goes off) like in Android Wear watches?

    • No, I don’t believe so.

      • no, but people are hoping that the next Apple Watch might contain such a feature. I wouldn’t hold my breath though…

  • Zooor

    Any news on support for audiobooks (e.g. Audible)?

  • I hope the new SIRI face is updated to pay attention to the fact that I’ve disabled breathe reminders. Even though I have it disabled, SIRI insists on displaying those in a way that can’t be dismissed without launching the app and running the app for 1 min. Sadly there doesn’t seem to be any cards either (or at least not any that I’ve been presented with) for fitness goals.

    It’s a cool idea but between those un-dismissible breathe reminders and not displaying things I wish it would I’ve just stopped using it for now.

    I like the new heart rate display though! Thanks for highlighting that, I missed that when looking through stuff earlier.

    • John

      That Christ this is the first beta!

      I too find this annoying (but I use it), I actually like that it stays there and subtly reminds me to relax throughout the day but I agree if you have it disabled, it should disappear all together.

      I’m looking forward to the personalised reminders and the new achievement animations.

      • Yeah personally I’m not a fan of the whole mindfulness routine. But I’m excited to see how much gets improved in the next 3 months.

        Personally I’d have loved it if the SIRI watch had focuses that you could pick (maybe similarly to how you change colors on other watch faces).

        So one focus might be for work, and it would prioritize notifications around email, calendar alerts, standing hourly, easy access to timers or a DnD toggle etc.

        Maybe another focus could be more fitness oriented and let you know how you’re doing, (walk 30 more minutes to get your daily calories in), recommended playlists to start listening to, notifications of if your friends are beating you in their goals, weather info, etc.

        Perhaps another could be for running errands and could give easy access to reminder lists (for groceries or something), an apple map to where you parked or a button to take you home, etc. It would be fantastic if you could allow 3rd party apps to be queued for this as well so you could see realtime bank balance or something else

        IDK, so much possibility. Hope Apple grows this over time :). A feature like this has so much room to grow, and I hope they give it the love it deserves.

  • Pete

    I would like to see personalized ring and text tones for the watch.

  • Oh thanks for the tip! That’s actually really awesome and gets me almost exactly what I was looking for! Not only does it let me get rid of that breathe notification but those settings are not universal either, so I can make as many SIRI watch faces as I want and give them different data sources based on what I’m doing.

    Now all we need is 3rd party data sources and it will be pretty close to perfect 🙂

    • John

      No problems. We’re here to help each other.

      Now third-party data would be pretty sweet. I’m actually surprised not all Siri-linked apps are already available.

      That said, imagine if you ordered an Uber/Lyft and you could see how long before it’s there on the watch face or the weather always stays on the screen.

      • I’m guessing that the reason we don’t see this yet is because current Siri linked apps are designed around questions and answers. Not displaying info formatted to those little cards and geared towards specific times of the day.

        My guess is that developers will have to provide a new view for their app data similar to a watch complication in order to appear on the Siri watch face.

  • pablo

    Well, I can not control and see the music I have in my iphone, only I can see the music that is in the iwatch…a bug 4.0. I can control the music from the iphone but when I choose from the iphone. Siri from the Iwatch does not find music that is in the iphone…

    • have you been able to get around the issue since then ?