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WatchOS 5: All our favorite new features

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Apple officially released its WatchOS 5 for its Apple Watch lineup. WatchOS 5 bring ssome 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’s all the new features you’ll find on WatchOS 5.

Health- and fitness-tracking improvements

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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 heat 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.

Communication

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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 I.D. 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 I.D., 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
  • The University of Alabama
  • Santa Clara University
  • Temple University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • The 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 WatchOS5 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 17: WatchOS is now available for download. 

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