Apple watchOS 6 is likely to arrive at the tail end of 2019, bringing juicy new features and software improvements for most Apple Watch owners.
Exactly how juicy those features will be and what form those improvements will take remains to be seen, but if you want to be the first to know you’re in the right place, as we’ll be keeping this article updated with all the watchOS 6 news and rumors as they roll in.
You’ll also find information on the release date and likely compatibility of the software below, plus a wish list covering all the things we really want to see.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The next version of Apple's smartwatch operating system
- When is it out? Likely to be announced in June, launched in September
- What will it cost? Nothing!
watchOS 6 release date and compatibility
Based on past form, watchOS 6 will almost certainly be announced at WWDC 2019 in June and will likely launch in the form of a beta available to developers shortly afterwards, with a final, finished release likely landing in or around September.
It’s likely also to land on the Apple Watch 2, but probably won’t be compatible with the Apple Watch Series 1 (the updated version of the original Apple Watch), since the original Apple Watch isn’t compatible with watchOS 5, so the Series 1 device will be next in line for the chopping block.
watchOS 6 news and rumors
A few new rumors of watchOS 6 have now arrived, and they suggest some big changes to the software. It all comes from a report in Bloomberg that says we'll see a version of an App Store on the Apple Watch for the first time.
The news suggests you'll be able to download apps directly to your watch, which means you won't have to have the equivalent included on your watch to be able to use them on your wearable.
It also means you'll be able top download apps when you're on the go if you have the LTE version of an Apple Watch.
On top of that, the report suggests there are some more apps coming to the platform that we haven't seen before including a first-party calculator and Apple Books for listening to audiobooks.
Rumored health features include a first-party menstrual cycle tracker (before you've been limited to third-party apps like Clue) as well as a reminder system for when you should take medication.
One of the other rumors suggests you'll also be able to connect your hearing aid to your Apple Watch. Exactly how that works remains to be seen.
On top of that, you can expect a new variety of watch faces as well as new watch face complications. Those new watch faces are set to be called X-Large, California, Solar Analog, Infograph Subdial and Gradient.
None of this information has been confirmed yet, but Bloomberg has been a solid source of this sort of detail in the past so we can expect to see at least some of these features at WWDC 2019.
We’ll fill out this section as and when we hear more rumors about the updated operating system, so be sure to check back regularly, and in the meantime check below for what we want from it.
What we want to see
While we wait for more rumors to emerge, here’s a wish list of our most wanted watchOS 6 features.
1. Third-party watch faces
We’ve been wishing for this since the first generation of watchOS and it still hasn’t arrived, but it still seems like a possibility, so hopefully third-party watch faces will land on watchOS 6.
Apple’s creations are great but they’re very limited in number, especially compared to the huge selection on Wear OS, which exists thanks to third-party creators.
2. Sleep tracking
The Apple Watch range is capable of tracking sleep, but it requires a third-party app to do it, which seems weird given how much focus Apple has put on health and fitness with its wearables.
The hardware can already monitor your heart rate and your movement, which are key to sleep tracking, so all Apple needs to do is bake the software functionality in to watchOS 6. Hopefully it will.
3. Display the iPhone battery level
Another feature that we’d like to see Apple offer is the ability to see your iPhone’s battery level on the Apple Watch. That way if your iPhone is in your pocket or plugged in at the other end of your house, you don’t need to find it to check how much life it has.
There are third-party complications for this, but we’d like to see it added as a standard feature by Apple.
4. More apps
This isn’t necessarily something that a new generation of watchOS could solve, but we’d really love there to be more apps available for the platform.
While it’s hardly app-starved, there are far fewer apps available for watchOS than iOS. That makes a certain amount of sense, since the smaller form factor means there’s less that you can comfortably do on an Apple Watch than an iPhone, but it’s still a versatile bit of kit, so we want to see more apps take advantage of it.
5. An always-on screen
One of the more surprising features that you won’t find on the Apple Watch is an always-on display, meaning that the screen turns itself off when idle and then you can’t see the time or anything else until it turns back on again.
That’s less convenient than an always-on screen and also isn’t a look everyone will want, as it leaves the device looking less like a watch when you can’t see the time.
Always-on screens do drain battery faster, but on other wearables they’re usually optional and less flashy than the main display, so the drain isn’t huge.
6. Additional exercise options
Apple has been gradually improving the health and fitness skills of watchOS and the Apple Watch hardware over the years, but there’s still room for improvement.
We want to see it go both wider and deeper. Wider with ever more activities available for tracking, and deeper with more metrics and more feedback, so the Apple Watch can be both a tracker and a coach.
7. Android support
This isn’t going to happen, but nor are we going to stop wanting it. The Apple Watch 4 is one of the best smartwatches available but needing an iPhone to use it is severely limiting.
Wear OS and other smartwatch platforms work with both iOS and Android, making them available to everyone and far more viable for anyone who isn’t loyal to a specific smartphone OS. We want Apple to follow suit and open up its wearables to all.