Apple announces watchOS 7: watch face sharing, sleep tracking, handwashing detection, and more

Today Apple hosted its special event keynote and offered an early look at the new software it’s bringing to the table later this year, which includes updates for watchOS and the Apple Watch.

As is par for the course with these sorts of updates, there are many new features that have been requested pretty frequently by actual users. That’s certainly the case this time around as well, as watchOS 7 introduces a handful of new additions that Apple Watch users will more than likely take full advantage of. At least, as along as the smartwatch’s battery life holds out, anyway.

Per the announcement’s paired press release today:

We’re energized by the positive impact Apple Watch is having on our customers and are excited to deliver meaningful new tools that support their health, fitness, and wellness,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. “watchOS 7 brings sleep tracking, automatic handwashing detection, and new workout types together with a whole new way to discover and use watch faces, helping our users stay healthy, active, and connected.

Watch faces

Take, for example, the ability to share watch faces. These complications and faces can be wildly different, and Apple is making it easy for users to quickly share interesting ones they find and ones they design themselves. What’s more, these sharable watch faces can be discovered through the App Store, or even on websites. Sharing on social media networks is possible, too.

Developers also have the ability to create more than one complication for a single app, giving Apple Watch owners more choice.

And, finally, there is a brand new first-party watch face to choose with watchOS 7: the Chronograph Pro. This new watch face includes a tachymeter built right in, which can calculate speed based on time traveled over a fixed distance.


If you are confident that your Apple Watch’s battery life can make it through a night after a full day’s use, then the new sleep tracking features might be worth considering. This new feature will bring with it a variety of tools from a “holistic approach”, aiming to help users get the amount of sleep they need/want on a nightly basis, get to bed on time, and even create pre-bedtime routines.

Through the detection of micro-movements from the watch’s accelerometer, which signals respiration during sleep, Apple Watch intelligently captures when the wearer is sleeping and how much sleep they get each night. In the morning, the wearer will see a visualization of their previous night’s sleep, including periods of wake and sleep. They will also see a chart showing their weekly sleep trend.

As far as that customized routine goes, it’s part of a new feature called Wind Down. It is available for both the iPhone and Apple Watch, and will allow users to create a customized scene in the Home app, launch a dedicated meditation app if they want, or play a soothing set of music. While in Sleep mode, the Do Not Disturb feature will automatically switch on as well, and it will darken the screen.

Apple is here to help you wake up, too:

To help users wake up, Apple Watch offers a silent haptic alarm or gentle sounds, while the wake-up screen shows the current battery level. Depending on personal charging behavior, if the battery is too low within an hour of bedtime, Apple Watch will remind users to charge it ahead of sleep. Sleep data is encrypted on device or in iCloud with iCloud sync, and data is always in the user’s control.

Wash your hands

Automatic handwashing detection is coming in watchOS 7 as well. This will give you an animated timer for 20 seconds, the appropriate time necessary to wash your hands. The countdown timer will go for as long as you’re washing your hands, and the Apple Watch uses on-device machine learning, motion sensors, and the microphone to track you washing your hands. If you finish early? There will be a prompt to continue washing.

The Health app will even keep track of your handwashing history as well.

New workouts

Apple is adding a new dedicated workout type to the Apple Watch: dancing.

To correctly capture calorie exertion for Dance, Apple Watch uses advanced sensor fusion, combining data from the heart rate sensor and inputs from the accelerometer and gyroscope, that accounts for the unique challenges of measuring different body-to-arm motions typical with dance. This workout type was validated and tested with four of the most popular dance styles for exercise: Bollywood, cardio dance, hip-hop, and Latin.

Apple is redesigning the Activity app as well. It will offer a more streamlined view for the important parts, including Awards, Activity Trends, and Workouts.

Audio notifications

To boost usefulness, watchOS 7 is introducing a new feature to support hearing health. Headphone audio notifications are joining the list of features, with the notifications letting users know when their audio levels might be too high.

When total listening with headphones has reached 100 percent of the safe weekly listening amount, Apple Watch provides a notification to the wearer. This amount is based on World Health Organization recommendations that, for instance, a person can be exposed to 80 decibels for about 40 hours per week without an impact to hearing abilities.1 Customers can also see how long they have been exposed to high decibel levels each week in the Health app on iPhone and can control the maximum level for headphone volume. No audio from the headphone audio notification feature is recorded or saved by the Health app or Apple Watch.

The rest

And there are some major bullet points that Apple added to the press release as well:

  • For optimal convenience while biking, cycling directions are available right on the wrist. Directions are large and easy to read, and Maps can direct when to dismount and walk the bike, or take the stairs to save time. The wearer can choose a route that avoids steep hills, gets to the destination the quickest, or takes the most direct path.
  • Customers can now use Siri to translate many languages conveniently from the wrist, dictation is handled on device with the power of the Apple Neural Engine for faster and more reliable processing when dictating messages and more, and Apple Watch now supports Announce Messages with Siri. The Shortcuts app is also now available on Apple Watch and can be accessed as a complication.
  • Developers can create graphic complications with SwiftUI, and new developer tools such as Xcode Previews make building them even easier.
  • New complications for native features include: Camera Remote, Sleep, and Shortcuts.
  • New Mobility Metrics available in the Health app include: low-range cardio fitness, walking speed, stair-descent speed, stair-ascent speed, six-minute walk distance, double support time, step length, and asymmetry. These metrics are important for the clinical community to monitor patients’ ability to move safely and easily as they age. Typically only measured in a lab setting, these metrics can be uniquely measured by Apple Watch and iPhone, and used by developers, such as Zimmer Biomet, a musculoskeletal healthcare company, in patient care and in management tools such as mymobility.

These new features will see the light of day for the public when watchOS 7 launches this fall.

What new features are you most excited about?