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WatchOS 7: The 5 best new features in Apple’s new smartwatch OS

The Apple Watch’s WatchOS is about to get even more helpful than it already is. Apple showed off the latest and greatest version of the operating system that powers the Apple Watch 5 (and most of its cousins) at the annual and first-ever-digital Worldwide Developer Conference — bringing more fitness and health tracking, watch face features, and so on.

The new version of WatchOS, called WatchOS 7, won’t be available to the public until it’s released alongside a new Apple Watch model in the fall, but at least we have an idea of what to expect when the new software does launch. Here’s everything you need to know about WatchOS 7.

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Sleep tracking

Apple has long been rumored to be bringing sleep tracking features to the Apple Watch, and in WatchOS 7, it’s finally releasing them to the public. The new sleep-tracking feature can track the quality of a user’s sleep, including metrics like heart rate, ambient noise in the room, and the user’s overall movement.

The way it works is pretty simple. Users will be able to set a bedtime and wake-up time, and based on that schedule, the Apple Watch can help users get to sleep. That’s through a feature called “Wind Down,” which is aimed at minimizing distractions in the lead-up to bedtime. For example, the feature will switch your iPhone to Do Not Disturb, and will change the lock screen to a less distracting interface. When it’s time for bed, the Apple Watch will automatically start tracking sleep.

Sleep data tracked through the Apple Watch integrates directly with the Apple Health app, and through that app, you’ll be able to see a rundown of how much sleep you’re getting and tips to get better sleep. When you wake up, you’ll also get a summary of your night’s sleep on your Apple Watch, along with a battery indicator to remind you to charge your device.

Watch Faces

Apple usually launches new watch faces alongside new versions of WatchOS, but instead of doing that this year, it’s making it easier to customize your own watch faces. There’s a new interface for watch face customization, and there are new complications. In fact, developers can now enable multiple complications on a single watch face, which means that you could create an entire watch face with only complications from one app.

Apple wants to make it easier to share watch faces too. Users can quickly and easily share their configured watch faces, including complications. Not only that, but companies can promote watch faces through their website or app. It’s important to note that these aren’t third-party watch faces — they’re simply configured Apple watch faces that include certain complications. If a user gets a watch face shared with them and they don’t have the right apps to support the complications in the watch, they’ll be prompted to download those apps.

New workouts and Fitness app

With this update, you’re getting a few new fitness tracking features to help you stay on target. You have new workouts to try, including a danced-based exercise and several cool-down activities. On the iPhone side, tracking your workouts will take place in the new Fitness app, which replaces the Activity app, and offers a new interface that prioritizes easy navigation.

Hand Washing tracking

The watch can also help hold you accountable for proper handwashing techniques by using background clues to figure out when you’re washing your hands and keeping you on track. The Apple Watch will be able to use machine learning to detect handwashing motions, combined with the sounds of running water. The watch starts the timer as soon as it detects those signs and keeps track of your time. Stop washing your hands before twenty seconds is up, and the watch will notify you to keep going.

Cycling directions

Apple is introducing cycling directions in Apple Maps as part of iOS 14, and as part of that, it’s bringing cycling directions to the Apple Watch. The app prioritizes large, easy to read directions and suggests alternate options like stairs to save time. It will even direct you when it’s best to dismount and walk your bike. Riders can also choose a route and customize it based on preference — think eliminating hills, choosing not to dismount, or any number of other options that help make each ride exactly what the cyclist wants. It’s a full-service app designed to build just the right ride.

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