WatchOS 5: All our favorite new features

WatchOS 5 comes with tons of new features -- here are our favorites

Apple officially released its WatchOS 5 for its Apple Watch lineup. WatchOS 5 bring some huge changes and additions to the Apple Watch. There’s a new walkie-talkie mode, improved health-tracking features, and more — all of which is set to show up on the recently announced Apple Watch Series 4.

Here are all the new features you’ll find on WatchOS 5.

Health- and fitness-tracking improvements

wwdc watch news activity tracking

Apple is putting a huge emphasis on accurate fitness tracking in WatchOS 5. The company studied more than 7 terabytes of fitness data from more than 12,000 participants to make sure the Apple Watch is able to deliver the best tracking measurements.

It’s celebrating by including some new exercise-focused features in WatchOS 5. You’ll find a new competition mode in WatchOS 5 that allows you to enter a seven-day competition with a friend. You can track both your own 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, too, as the Apple Watch now offers a custom pace alert, tracks your cadence, and even provides time data on the previous mile run while you’re running.

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.

When Apple announced the Apple Watch Series 4, it said that the device would be capable of tracking both heart rate and heart rhythm, as well as performing electrocardiograms. Those features will all be on offer in WatchOS 5, but only on the Apple Watch Series 4; these features will also be limited to certain regions.

User interface

Apple is making it a little easier to multitask in WatchOS 5. For starters, it added small status icons at the top of the interface for when an app is in use — allowing you to quickly and easily return to that app. For example, if Maps is navigating you somewhere and you change to a different app, you’ll find a Maps icon at the top of the interface allowing you to switch right back to the Maps app.

Watch WatchOS 5 there are also a ton new watch faces. For example, there’s the Breathe watch faces, which are available in classic, calm, and focus. There are also new motion faces, including fire and water, vapor, and liquid metal.

The Apple Watch is also getting a few changes that came to the iPhone. For example, notifications are now grouped together to help users more easily manage them, and you can easily manage your notification preferences by swiping left on an app notification.


Apple has finally added the Podcasts app to the Apple Watch. Now, you won’t be limited to listening to music from your watch — you’ll also be able to listen to podcasts. That’s a very welcome improvement for those that use their Apple Watch without their phone from time to time.

Users can manage their synced podcasts from the Watch app on the iPhone. Simply open the app, head to Podcasts, and then select what you want and don’t want to sync to your Apple Watch. New podcasts are automatically added to your Apple Watch when they become available and there are also Podcasts complications you can access.

Improvements to Siri

best Apple Watch faces

Siri may need a little work in general, but it’s a whole lot easier to use on the Apple Watch. How? Well, now, all you have to do is raise your wrist to your mouth and speak — and Siri will be listening. You will, however, need to activate the feature — which you can do by heading to the Apple Watch Settings and going to General, then Siri.

Siri has been given a few visual changes too, specifically in the Siri watch face. The Siri watch face itself isn’t new, but the face will now show Siri shortcuts including those from third-party apps. You can customize what shows on the Siri watch face too, straight from the Watch app on your phone.


wwdc apple watch walkie talkie

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 just by tapping the Talk button in the Walkie-Talkie app.

Your Siri watch face will also get a huge update as well. The new Siri watch face will provide more context-sensitive information. It will be able to provide information on your favorite sports teams, and offer commute and traffic information when it knows you’re most likely to be traveling home. WatchOS 5 will also see the introduction of Siri Shortcuts. With Siri Shortcuts, you can do things like check on 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, so you no longer need your phone to listen to your favorite shows. Another long-awaited addition is WebKit. With WebKit, you will be able to view web pages from Messages or emails.

Apple has tweaked the way notifications show, and you’ll find notifications from the same app grouped together, so you won’t need to scroll as much. WebKit means you can tap links on your notifications and see an optimized view of that website, and you can schedule a Do Not Disturb period, or set a specific location where you don’t want to be disturbed.

Finally, there’s no need to say, “Hey Siri” anymore — now you can simply raise your wrist to your mouth and Siri will already be listening.

Student ID cards

This is a fairly niche one, but it’s worth mentioning. Students at a handful of colleges across the U.S. will be able to use their Apple Watches as their student ID, thanks to NFC. This means they’ll be able to use their watches to pay for laundry, open rooms, and even grab a bite to eat.

At the moment, only six institutions have taken up Apple’s offer:

  • Duke University
  • University of Alabama
  • Santa Clara University
  • Temple University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • University of Oklahoma

Other features

Our list is not exhaustive in any sense; we’ve simply focused on some of the most exciting updates in WatchOS 5. If you want to check out every new feature and update, head over to Apple’s WatchOS 5 page.

Release date

Apple released its WatchOS 5 update on September 17. To download it, you’ll need to open the Watch app on your iPhone and tap General > Software Updates > Install. As long as you’re not the owner of a first-generation Apple Watch, you’ll receive WatchOS 5 later this year.

Updated on September 20, 2018: Added improvements to the user interface, Siri, and the addition of podcasts.


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