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watchOS 7 release date, features and Apple Watch compatibility

watchOS 7
An example of what watchOS 7 looks like (Image credit: Apple)

You can now download the watchOS 7 update onto your Apple Watch, as Apple has fully rolled out the new smartwatch software to all its compatible devices (check our list below to see if your device is included).

WatchOS 7 was rolled out just after the launch of the Apple Watch 6 and Apple Watch SE, though you don't need these new smartwatches to use the software - loads of people with older devices can make the most of the new operating system and all its cool features.

The surprise new watchOS 7 feature we didn't know about is that it'll enable the Apple Watch to measure the full range of VO2 Max, and can get notifications if it drops to a low level. 

There are also cool new features like sleep tracking, automatic hand washing detection, and loads of new watch faces. We've got a full list of all the watchOS 7 features below that you can check out while the update downloads.

WatchOS 7 is set to introduce exciting new features that will change how we use our Apple smartwatches. Here's what we've tested so far with a little more depth.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? Apple's next big update for Apple Watch
  • When is it out? Wednesday, September 16
  • How much will it cost? Nothing

watchOS 7 release date and availability

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple announced that the watchOS7 update release date as Wednesday, September 15. Even if the iPhone 12 isn't coming out in September, the software updates are right on time.

You can download the watchOS 7 update now, but you'll to get iOS 14 first to be able to download it. 

Will your Apple Watch get watchOS 7?

Bucking tradition, Apple followed up announcing watchOS 7 by confirming which Apple Watches will be getting the new operating system in a blog post. WatchOS 7 is confirmed for the Apple Watch 5, Apple Watch 4, and Apple Watch 3.

Yes, sadly, that means the Apple Watch 2 and Apple Watch Series 1 owners are out of luck. Original Apple Watch owners missed out on last year's watchOS 6 update, and now we have a new threshold for devices that can upgrade to the latest watchOS.

watchOS 7 features

(Image credit: Apple)

Streamlined complications

WatchOS 7 gets refined complications, allowing devs to enable multiple complications and watch faces. You can create your own custom selection, for example a 'surf watch' with beachside conditions, to make your ideal watch face. 

WatchOS 7 also makes it easier to share your watch faces via a new feature, Face Sharing. When you see a watch face you like, click the button prompt below it and the face will download – and you'll be prompted to download any missing complications.

(Image credit: Apple)

Sleep tracking at last

The Health app has finally added a long-requested sleep-tracking feature. This includes Wind Down, which allows you to create a personalized routine to get you to sleep, with options such as whether to wake up via audio tones or haptic vibration for a quieter and more personal alarm. WatchOS 7 tracks sleep with some informed help from on-device machine learning, and feeds that info into the updated Health app on a paired iPhone. 

(Image credit: Apple)

Maps: cycling options and more

Yes, just like in iOS 14, watchOS 7 will include cycling directions in the Maps app. This includes elevation changes and navigation prompts with large, easy-to-read complications, which are granular enough to tell you about upcoming elevation changes or other trip disruptions. 

The app can even suggest you alter a trip yourself – for instance, advising you to dismount and walk the bike or take a set of stairs to save time. You can customize your trip, too, to avoid elevation change or to take the most direct route, hills be darned.

Apple Event 2020

(Image credit: Apple)

Fitness Plus

Fitness Plus is a new service from Apple that works directly through Apple Watches (it's unclear if it will require watchOS 7, but is being introduced alongside it). Fitness Plus is located in the Fitness app and available before the end of the year in half a dozen countries.

Fitness Plus is a collection of workouts that you can watch on your iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV – and while you're exercising, you can see all your fitness data collected by your Apple Watch up on the screen.

New workouts come every week from a series of instructors that teach alongside a variety of workout music styles, like Hip Hop, Country and R&B. 

(Image credit: Apple)

Workouts: dance and cooldowns

Workouts are getting an upgrade, too, with Dance added as a total body workout. Dance will track four of the most popular (and broadly-defined) dance styles: Bollywood, cardio dance, hip hop, and Latin. 

How? The Watch combines data from heart rate sensor, accelerometer and gyroscope to measure exertion while moving arms and legs. That's not all: there are a few other new workout modes, including core training, functional strength training, and even cool-downs for winding down your exercise sessions. You can track all this in the redesigned Activity app – which will now be called Fitness – in iOS 14.

Apple Event 2020

(Image credit: Apple)

Family Set Up

Family Set Up allows users to route several Apple Watches through a single phone, letting parents set up their kids' smartwatches without needing a separate iPhone. Parents can also set up movement goals and track their kids' locations.

Only cellular Apple Watch models can link up to Family Setup, and the feature only works in around a dozen countries so far, but will likely be expanded to more regions going forward. 

(Image credit: Apple)

Handwashing

Apparently some of you haven't been washing your hands enough! watchOS 7 will come with automatic handwashing detection, which uses machine learning and audio cues to measure whether you wash your hands for a full 20-second timer, with fun sounds to ensure you’re washing for long enough. 

Better still, your handwashing data will be fed into the iPhone's Health app, which will show the frequency and duration of washing your hands. Not only are your Apple Watch + iPhone paying attention – the Health app will also provide information on the importance of handwashing. Those of you who haven't been, perhaps it's time to learn. 

(Image credit: Apple)

Hearing

While watchOS 6 introduced the Noise app to notify users when their surroundings were loud enough to endanger their hearing, watchOS 7 is expanding the app's functionality to notify users when they've exceeded safe levels of media listening through headphones.

That's around 80 decibels for about 40 hours per week, according to the World Health Organization – exceed that, and your Apple Watch will warn you about it. The Health app on the iPhone will also track how long you've been exposed to high decibel levels over the week (that's also where users can control the maximum audio level for headphone volume). In accordance with Apple's privacy attitude, none of this audio data is saved or recorded by the Health app or your Apple Watch.

Siri on-device

With watchOS 7, Apple Watches can now use Siri to handle translation, dictation through the Apple Neural Engine, and even use the voice assistant to audibly speak messages via the Announce Messages feature.