At Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference earlier this month, the company rolled out updates to the software powering the Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Features like Stage Manager on the iPad and Continuity Camera on the Mac might be getting a lot of the attention, but it turns out that the Watch OS 9 is getting a few updates that happen to be a big deal.
Basically, Apple is trying to make it so you don't have to pick up your iPhone as often. That's an interesting strategy when you consider that the Watch is designed to be the iPhone's ultimate companion. You can't even use one without pairing to an iPhone, but Apple is making it easier to use your watch more and your iPhone less.
The biggest feature here is that you can finally add calendar events directly from your watch. The Calendar app gets a design makeover as well, including a new Week view, along with better List, Day, and Month views. If you're like most people, who live in their calendar app, having more functionality on the Watch is a huge win.
Notifications are one of the most useful features of the Apple Watch. It's super useful to be able to quickly glance at your Watch to see a text message or email without ever having to pick up your iPhone. Now, Apple is making them "less interruptive." That means they come in a new form factor designed to take up less screen real estate and be less distracting.
3. Sleep Stage Tracking
Being able to track your sleep is one of the, well, sleeper features on the Apple Watch. It may be less popular, but it's certainly helpful if you're trying to set a goal of getting the right amount of sleep--something that can help you be more productive.
In WatchOS 9, Apple is adding tracking of your sleep stages. That way you can see how much time you're spending awake, in REM, core, and deep sleep. The Watch uses data including your heart rate and how much you move to figure it out, and Apple says it tested the feature against what it calls the "clinical gold standard."
4. New Watch Faces
As it does every year, Apple released new Watch faces with the latest version of WatchOS. That includes Lunar, Playtime, Metropolitan, and an improved Astronomy watch face.
While watch faces might not seem like a big deal, one of the biggest changes is that Apple discontinued the Series 3, meaning that older watch faces can now support rich complications that weren't available on the older model. That's good news for developers who no longer have to support the old design, enabling a better experience for all Watch users.
Overall, these changes may seem small, but the there's a recurring theme: Apple seems to want you to need to rely on your iPhone less, by making your Watch more helpful. That's actually a great idea--the iPhone may be the most useful device most people own, but it's also one of the biggest distractions. If you can get the same information, without having to pick up your iPhone, that's a huge win.