Apple releases watchOS 6: dedicated App Store, new watch faces, cycle tracking, and more

Apple is ready to update the Apple Watch lineup with the next big software update, finally rolling out watchOS 6.

Apple on Thursday officially launched watchOS 6 to the public. This is a big update for the company’s smartwatch lineup, adding a dedicated App Store to the platform for the first time, new apps, new watch faces, and more.

watchOS 6 offers a variety of new watch faces, some that offer more color, big letters or numbers, and others that offer access to more information and complications. And there are new complications as well, including those dedicated to decibel levels, the chance of rain, or even cellular strength. The Taptic Engine in the Apple Watch can now even tap out the hour for you:

Now you have new ways to mark time. The Taptic Engine inside your watch can silently tap out the hour on your wrist. You can set a chime to ring in the new hour. And when you hold two fingers on your watch face, it will tell you the time out loud.

Siri is getting improved on the Apple Watch as well. watchOS 6 will let users ask the digital assistant on their wrist what song is playing, which will then be identified by Shazam (which Apple now owns). Users will be able to ask Siri about a topic and quickly be able to scroll through small web pages that offer the answer.

Potentially the biggest new addition to watchOS 6 is the dedicated App Store. This allows users to quickly browse and buy from a huge collection of apps for the smartwatch, without having to rely solely on the iPhone to get them. watchOS 6 will offer curated lists, give users the ability to search the App Store via Scribble or Dictation, or even ask Siri to help find an app. The App Store for Apple Watch will show screenshots of the app, reviews, and more.

There are new dedicated apps for the Apple Watch as well, including a new Audiobooks app.

With the new Audiobooks app, Apple Books titles in your Reading Now list are automatically synced to your watch. In the middle of a book you can’t put down? Just tap the cover and hit play to pick up where you left off, no matter what device you were using last.

Apple adds the Calculator app to watchOS 6

There are new apps for Calculator, Lists, and Voice Memos as well.

Health is important to Apple, and the Apple Watch helps with that. There are new Activity Trends that can be followed right on the smartwatch, showing the user’s progress over time. They will be able to see a variety of new metrics, including Stand Minutes, Cardio Fitness, and overall Distance.

Your Activity rings are a great snapshot of your Move, Exercise, and Stand metrics throughout the day. But your watch captures so much more, from exercise minutes, to running pace, to cardio fitness. The new Trends feature shows whether any metric is headed up or down over time, so you can keep it going or turn it around.

Cycle Tracking is being introduced in watchOS 6

The other new big addition to watchOS 6 is Cycle Tracking, allowing users to get insight into their menstrual cycle:

Gaining insight into your menstrual cycle can help provide a clearer picture of your overall health. In addition to simply ensuring that you’re prepared, you’ll have more information to help you track irregularities and symptoms and enrich discussions with your doctor.

Hearing Health is built into the new Noise app. This makes it possible to see and understand just how loud a location might be. The app (and its corresponding complication) can show you the decibel levels around you, warning you if the area is too loud and you should cover your ears to prevent damage.

Your watch monitors your environment’s ambient noise and tracks the duration of your exposure. When Apple Watch detects that the decibel level has risen to a point where hearing could be affected, it can notify you with a tap on the wrist.

While not all features will be available on all devices, Apple is making sure watchOS 6 is compatible with almost all of the Apple Watch variants, with the exception of the very first model. watchOS 6 does require an iPhone 6s or newer, with iOS 13 installed on that device.

Here are the supported Apple Watch models:

  • Apple Watch Series 1
  • Apple Watch Series 2
  • Apple Watch Series 3
  • Apple Watch Series 4
  • Apple Watch Series 5

watchOS 6 is a free upgrade. It’s available to download and install right now.