watchOS 8 Update: New Apple Watch Features & Release Date

Apple announced during the "California Streaming" event on September 14 that Apple Watch users have a host of new features to look forward to when they update to watchOS 8 on September 20. Learn when to expect the update to be available for your device, plus which new Apple Watch features you'll notice right away, and which may be delayed!

Related: iOS 15 Update for iPhone: New Features & Missing Updates

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watchOS 8 Release Date & Compatibility

Availability: watchOS 8 will be available for Apple Watch updates starting September 20. 

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Compatibility: Apple Watch Series 3, 4, 5, 6, and SE. The new Apple Watch software will not compatible with older Apple Watch models. watchOS 8 will come pre-installed on Apple Watch Series 7.

Image courtesy of Apple

New Apple Watch Features in watchOS 8

These features will be available with the watchOS 8 update set to become available September 20. Keep in mind that while the initial release is planned for that day, availability may be staggered! If you don't see an available update for your Apple Watch right away on the 20th, check back later in the day or the following day.

  • Focus, new to iOS 15 for iPhone, can be set across all of your Apple devices to filter out unwanted notifications and allow only those alerts you want to see.
  • New Workouts will be available for Apple Watch, including Tai Chi, Guided Meditation, and Pilates. Workout durations between 5–45 minutes will now be available as well.
  • Mindfulness combines the existing Breathe feature with a new Reflect function for mind and body wellness.
  • Sleeping Respiratory Rate is a new metric recorded by your Apple Watch and stored in the Health app on your iPhone.
  • The Home app has been remodeled to give easier access to HomeKit features like video cameras, light bulbs, Intercom, and thermostats.
  • New Wallet features like car, hotel, and home keys will be accessible with the Apple Watch Tap to Unlock feature when available from participating developers.
  • Portrait watch faces will allow you to set a photo from your iPhone as an Apple Watch face. 

You'll also see updates to Photos, Music, and Weather, along with a new Find Items feature. We initially introduced these new features to our readers after the June WWDC event, but if you're interested in learning how to use them, sign up for our free Tip of the Day newsletter to receive a one-minute how-to each day, delivered straight to your inbox!

Delayed Apple Watch Features to Look Forward To

Thankfully, all of the watchOS 8 features announced at the June WWDC event seem to be ready for the September 20 release. However, today Apple announced a surprise Apple Fitness Plus feature for Apple Watch users—group workouts—though it's unfortunately delayed until the release of SharePlay. Keep an eye out for Apple Watch updates later this year!

Which new Apple Watch features are you most excited about? Do you plan to buy a new Apple Watch 7? We'd love to hear your thoughts!

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Author Details

Erin MacPherson's picture

Author Details

Erin MacPherson

Erin is a Web Editor for iPhone Life and has been a writer, editor, and researcher for many years. She has a degree in communication with an emphasis on psychology and communication, and has spent many of her professional years as a coach in various business and specialty fields. Erin officially joined the ranks of iPhone and Apple users everywhere around nine years ago, and has since enjoyed the unique and customized feel of Apple technology and its many gadgets. When she’s not working, Erin and her son enjoy outdoor adventures, camping, and spending time with their eclectic collection of pets.