9to5Mac exclusively reported over the weekend that Apple Watch will gain the ability to detect blood oxygen saturation, a critical vital for maintaining heart and brain health. The new health feature isn’t the only change coming to Apple Watch Series 6 and watchOS 7.
Based on leaked iOS 14 code obtained by 9to5Mac, we can share many more details including new watch faces, sleep tracking, and parental control features in development for later this fall.
You can’t have a new watchOS version without watch face updates, and watchOS 7 has at least three changes in that department.
Apple is developing a new feature for sharing watch faces between users — a feature that has long been on my wish list — and each watch face is treated like a unique file.
Based on an early version of iOS 14 code, users will be able to share specific watch face configurations with others using the share sheet from the Watch app on iOS. It’s not clear if watch faces will be shareable directly between watches.
The feature will add to the existing ability to customize existing watch faces with various colors, styles, and complications. Watch face configurations will be sharable as files that can be previewed in the Files app and shared with various methods including AirDrop from the iPhone.
There’s no evidence that watchOS 7 will support third-party watch faces (yet), but it’s easy to imagine how watch face distribution could be a building block.
watchOS 6 includes two versions of the Infograph watch face introduced in 2018 with the Apple Watch Series 4: Infograph and Infograph Modular.
watchOS 7 will introduce a new version called Infograph Pro. The key characteristic will be a new element to Apple Watch faces: a tachymeter.
A what? A tachymeter is an analog watch scale located around the dial that is used to measure speed and distance based on travel time.
To use a tachymeter-equipped watch for measuring speed, the chronograph is started at a starting marker of a known distance. At the next marker, the point on the scale adjacent to the second hand indicates the speed (in distance between markers per hour) of travel between the two. The typical tachymeter scale on a watch converts between the number of seconds it takes for an event to happen and the number of times that event will occur in one hour.
The new tachymeter element continues the watch face design approach of borrowing features from the analog watch world.
Apple Watch lets users create personalized digital watch faces using images from the Photos app on the iPhone or Apple Watch. Photo watch faces currently support two sources:
Photo watch faces based on albums cycle through a collection of images each time the watch face is activated with a tap, click, or wrist raise.
A third photo source will be available in watchOS 7 based on leaked iOS 14 code: shared albums. Apple’s Photos app includes this special album type that allows multiple users to access and contribute to the same shared album.
Allowing shared albums as a source enables new ways of creating photo watch faces. For example, someone could use their shared family album as a watch face that includes photos added by other family members. You could also create a shared album for managing photos on a parent or grandparent’s watch face.
watchOS 7 will be a huge update for parents if these features in development make the final cut, and this dad can’t be happier about what’s coming.
Apple appears to be developing the ability to set up and manage Apple Watches for kids using a parent’s iPhone. A single iPhone can already activate and pair with multiple Apple Watches, but only one watch can be used at a time and each watch is tied to the same account as the iPhone.
Under the new model, a parent could activate and manage an Apple Watch for a child without requiring a second iPhone. This method will also offer parental controls including managing trust contacts and available music.
Apple Watch parental controls go even further in iOS 14 and watchOS 7. A new feature called Schooltime will allow parents to manage which apps and complications can be used during certain hours like class time.
Finally, 2020 appears to be the year of built-in sleep tracking on the Apple Watch — a timeline Bloomberg reported in February last year.
Apple has already accidentally leaked its own Sleep app for Apple Watch, and 9to5Mac previously reported on how sleep tracking will work in detail including battery life management.
New information discovered in the early iOS 14 code supports our initial reporting, adding that a user can set a personalized sleep goal in the Health app on iPhone. The Health app will also include recommendations for improving sleep duration and quality.
Control Center on Apple Watch (and possibly iPhone) is also expected to include new toggles for Sleep mode as well as Noise detection.
Finally, watchOS 7 will also change the architecture for Apple Watch apps. watchOS 6 added the ability to release standalone Apple Watch apps like Geneva Moon through the App Store — no more iPhone companion app required — but apps are still based on the previous extension architecture.
Starting with watchOS 7, Apple Watch apps will no longer be based on extensions.