Apple’s WatchOS 8: Here’s everything you need to know

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Apple released WatchOS 8 for the Apple Watch on September 20, along with iOS 15 for the iPhone. While the latest Apple Watch software isn’t as feature-packed as its iPhone and iPad counterparts, it does add some significant improvements to life that promise to make Apple’s wearable experience even easier, while helping you live more comfortably. Helps maintain focus, and keep in shape.


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watchOS 8 takes the long-standing Breathe app that has been around since watchOS 3 and expands it into a comprehensive mindfulness app. It adds a new reflection section to help people take some time to sit back and think pleasant thoughts.

The new mindfulness app still includes features from the previous Breathe app, which has remained basically unchanged since its introduction five years ago. However, according to Apple, Breathe has become more popular — which isn’t really that surprising considering the year we all have.

Three Apple Watches showing the Mindfulness app.
Jesse Hollington / Nerdshala

While Breathe still prompts you to just relax and take a deep breath, the new Reflect mode will prompt you to think about a few things, such as “doing something you love to do and why it makes you happy.” gives.” This will be followed by a gentle animation for a few minutes that will help you focus and remove whatever is stressing you out of your mind. These short breaks will also be recorded as “mindful minutes” in the Apple Health app.

Other health and fitness improvements

watchOS 8 also makes a small but useful improvement to the sleep tracking feature, which was unveiled last year, which monitors your respiratory rate while you sleep in addition to your heart rate and hours of sleep. Since your breathing rate should be fairly consistent while you sleep, any changes could be a sign of a problem. The data will be stored in the Health app, and you will also receive a notification if a significant change is found.

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The watchOS 8 Workout app adds new tai chi and workouts. The Fitness+ app also features seven new high-intensity workout plans from fitness trainer Zeenat Jenkins. Fitness+ also has a new Artist Spotlight series, along with inspiring music playlists from some big names, including Lady Gaga.


watchOS 8 makes some pretty cool usability in the Messages app. Now you can use Scribble not only to compose a message, but also to edit text in-line by placing the cursor or tapping to select a word. You can now finally add emoji to scribbled and dictated messages too, so you no longer need to send another message just to get a smiley face.

Three Apple Watches showing off new messaging features.
Jesse Hollington / Nerdshala

The App Shelf from the iPhone Messages app also comes to watchOS 8, so you can send Memoji stickers, GIFs, audio messages, skip heartbeats, or send money via Apple Pay Cash.

portrait watch face

With every update, Apple adds some new watch faces, and WatchOS 8 is no exception. This time around, we’re getting a new Portrait Face that lets you take Portrait Mode shots out of your iPhone photo library and display them with some cool new effects. You can select up to 24 portrait photos in which the watch face will cycle automatically and can choose one of three different styles for the watch.

Three Apple Watches with examples of Portrait watch faces.
Jesse Hollington / Nerdshala

The new face of watchOS 8 will intelligently decide where to place the watch in each of your photos, sometimes even placing it slightly behind your subjects for more depth. A quick turn of the Digital Crown zooms in a bit on subjects while still maintaining perspective. This is an especially neat effect when the clock is in the background.


The Photos app gets a long-overdue redesign with a new card that gives selected memory and access to selected photos of the day, in addition to your favorite albums.

Three Apple Watches showing off new Photos app features.
Jesse Hollington / Nerdshala

Photos in any of these sections can be selected and scrolled across the screen as before, but if you stop at one of the photos, you’ll see a new share button in the lower left corner that lets you share photos via Mail. Allows sending from Or messaging apps.


watchOS 8 fills another big gap in the Apple Watch experience with a new Contacts app that lets you browse your contacts list directly. Although your contacts were previously available in apps like Phone, Messages, Mail and Maps — and of course you could make calls and send messages with Siri — there’s no easy way to view your contact list or view detailed information on a contact. was not. Like their phone number or street address.

Three Apple Watches showing the new Contacts app.
Jesse Hollington / Nerdshala

Contacts in watchOS 8 provides all of the same important information as your iPhone Contacts app, including notes and the person’s location if they’re sharing it with you. You can also share contacts via Messages or Mail and edit contact information or add a new contact directly from your wrist, either by dictation, scribble, or the new on-screen keyboard on the Apple Watch Series 7. All common fields can be filled by using .

Find items and devices

When Apple consolidated its Find My app in iOS 13, the Apple Watch was abandoned. Find My Friends is better known as Find People, so you could still find people who shared their location with you, but there was no way to locate your Apple device from your iPhone.

Three Apple Watches showing the Find My Items and Find My Devices apps.
Jesse Hollington / Nerdshala

Fortunately, watchOS 8 finally brings these features to the Apple Watch with the ability to search for people, devices, and even items like Apple’s AirTag. To keep things from getting too cluttered on the small screen, watchOS 8 still splits these into three separate apps instead of consolidating them into the single Find My app found on the iPhone, iPad, and Mac. However, Find Individual People, Find Device, and Find Items offer most of the same features as their respective sections in the iPhone app. When you leave your AirPods behind, you can still receive notifications on your wrist.

multiple timers

For years, the built-in clock and timer app on Apple’s mobile devices has only let you run a single countdown timer at a time, and although iOS 15 didn’t do anything about it on the iPhone, the good news is that WatchOS 8 finally brings support for multiple timers to your wrist.

Three Apple Watches showing multiple timer settings.
Jesse Hollington / Nerdshala

You can set multiple timers directly in the Timer app or make your requests using Siri. An active timer A back arrow in the top left corner of the screen lets you return to the main timer list, where you can start another timer. The timers will be sorted by time left, and if you’re using the timer complication on your watch face, it will show you which timer is about to end first. It’s a welcome addition to busy home cooks and anyone who does more than one thing at the same time.

Other New Features

There are some other small quality-of-life improvements in watchOS 8:

  • NS music The app gets a nice redesign which includes the ability to share songs, albums, and playlists directly from the Apple Watch.
  • NS Season The app will now show severe weather notifications and next hour rainfall alerts. There are also more weather complications now available for your watch face.
  • NS Noise The app will now measure audio volume exposure for the headphones in real time, letting you know if your listening levels are too high before you risk long-term hearing damage.
  • iOS 15’s all-new Focus Mode also applies to the Apple Watch and can be activated and deactivated from the watchOS Control Center.
  • NS House The app now accelerates and improves support for accessories like doorbell cameras with two-way audio, so you’ll now be able to talk at your front door. When responding to notifications, you’ll also see relevant accessories, such as your front porch lights up when looking at your doorbell camera.
  • NS always-on display The Apple Watch Series 5, Series 6 and Series 7 will now work with Apple apps like Stopwatch, Alarm, Now Playing and Apple Maps. Third-party developers will also be able to use it in their apps.
  • With iOS 15.1 and WatchOS 8.1, you can now store proof of your COVID-19 vaccination in the Wallet app with a QR code for quick scanning.

And what’s coming?

watchOS 8 promises support for digital keys and digital ID cards, paving the way for a day when you might someday completely leave your wallet behind. As far as we know, the built-in features for this are already in place, so the ball is in the state governments and digital lock manufacturers to add the missing pieces.

Unlike the iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 point releases, the WatchOS 8.x updates don’t add much in the way of new features. At the time of this writing, watchOS 8.3 is currently in beta (for reasons unknown, Apple is dropping watchOS 8.2), and there’s every indication that it’s little more than a maintenance release.

Which watches can get watchOS 8?

You can install watchOS 8 on every model of Apple Watch that is capable of running watchOS 7, though you’ll also need to be using an iPhone 6s or later updated to iOS 15.

  • apple watch series 3
  • apple watch series 4
  • apple watch series 5
  • apple watch series 6
  • apple watch series 7
  • Apple Watch SE

Apple notes that not all features will be available on older models, although the distinction here isn’t as important as it is for the iPhone. For the most part, defaults are based on standard hardware differences, such as Always On Display (Series 5, 6, and 7) ECG and fall detection sensors (Series 4 and later only), or Ultra Wideband technology for advanced digital Car keys (Series 6 and 7 only).

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