Apple watchOS 4 and watchOS 4.3 news and features

Update: The latest version of watchOS 4.3, which is now ready for your watch and you'll learn all about the latest upgrades below.

Apple’s wearable software is a big part of why the Apple Watch, Apple Watch 2 and now, the Apple Watch 3, are among of the best smartwatches on the planet and keeping pace with the best Wear OS watches out there.

With watchOS 4, the software is better than ever and the best news is if you have any Apple Watch you'll be able to nab the software right now.

WatchOS 4 includes a lot of updates, from new watch faces to improved health and fitness tracking, but there have been a few iterative updates since then too. Here's everything you need to know about it.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The latest software upgrade for the Apple Watch
  • When is it out? Released September 19 2017
  • What will it cost? It's free for existing Apple Watch devices

watchOS 4 release date

The full release of watchOS 4 is live, having launched alongside iOS 11 for iPad and iPhone devices in September 2017. 

Since then, we've seen the release of watchOS 4.1 in October, watchOS 4.2 in December and then watchOS 4.3 in March. That's the latest upgrade, but if you're on the beta program for watchOS you'll now have access to watchOS 4.3.1 too.

We don't currently expect another major upgrade to watchOS 4, and instead we're beginning to turn our attention to watchOS 5 that may land alongside the Apple Watch 4 later this year.

If you own an Apple Watch, you'll be able to grab the watchOS 4.3 software now and we recommend following our guide to updating to watchOS 4 to help out.

watchOS 4.3 compatibility

The watchOS 4.3 update is available for all Apple Watch, Apple Watch 2 and Apple Watch 3 devices. In other words it's available for every model of Apple's wearable.

However, you will also need an iPhone with iOS 11, and some older handsets can't get that update. Check out our iOS 11 compatibility guide for full details.

watchOS 4.3, 4.2 and 4.1

watchOS 4 has already had three updates, so before we get to the older features there are a few brand new ones to know about.

The changes were minor in watchOS 4.3 with a focus on music. It allows you to control the volume and playback on your Apple HomePod, plus it brings back the feature to control music playing on your iPhone.

That update also brought the ability to use any orientation when in charging mode, a  few extra complications for the Siri watch face and some bug fixes at the same time.

With watchOS 4.2, you're now able to use Apple Pay Cash to send and receive money through iMessage.

Currently only available in the US, you can simply select the Apple Pay Cash option at the bottom of a conversation, then follow the prompts. Money is sent as a digital Apple Pay Cash card, which can be used to make purchases through Apple Pay, or you can then transfer the funds to your bank account.

watchOS 4.2 also adds the ability for third-party apps to track snow sports, logging things like distance, average speed and elevation descended. Plus there's support for HomeKit-enabled sprinklers and faucets.

As for watchOS 4.1, that added the ability to stream Apple Music when connected to Wi-Fi or LTE, so you don't need to rely on your phone or locally stored tracks. It also added similar functionality through the Radio app.

watchOS 4 interface

As well as adding new features (detailed below) Apple tweaked the interface for watchOS 4.

For example, the dock now displays icons vertically rather than horizontally, and you can choose to have it show your most recently used apps rather than your favorites if you prefer.

There's also now a flashlight option in Control Center, which can be toggled to display a white light, a red light or a flashing light - the last of which could be handy to alert motorists to your presence if you're out in the dark.

watchOS 4 faces

As part of watchOS 4, Apple has created several new watch faces. One of these even has Siri built-in, and it's now one of our favorite watchOS faces.

The face will show you cards with upcoming calendar events, traffic alerts and other relevant information throughout the day. It can pull in data from the likes of Breathe, Maps, Wallet, Activity and Alarms, and you can also tap on a complication in the top left corner to launch Siri.

There's also a new Toy Story watch face. This includes Woody, Jessie and Buzz Lightyear, each of which have their own animations. You can pick which character you want displayed or select to cycle them at random. If you choose that option you'll also find some other Toy Story characters are thrown in from time to time.

This isn't the first Disney watch face to hit Apple's wearable's, as there's already one which lets you choose between Minnie or Mickey Mouse.

The third and final new watch face is a kaleidoscope one, which lets you choose a picture and have it transformed into a kaleidoscope pattern. With various photos to choose from and several different kaleidoscope styles there's a lot of variety here.

This update also brought through a variety of new complications you can include on other watch faces including Siri, News, Heart Rate, Now Playing and Messages. 

watchOS 4 fitness

Other than new watch faces, watchOS 4 also brought monthly challenges to the activity app. These are personalized and based on what you achieved the previous month.

It also brings intelligent coaching, which Apple says will allow you to reach your goals quicker. You'll get a notification if you're close to an achievement, along with suggestions on how to reach it and words of encouragement.

Whenever you do hit a goal or close an activity ring the watch screen will burst into a full screen celebration. The Workouts app is getting some small upgrades to make it easier to use too.

For example, if you rest at the end of the pool while swimming it will identify how many lengths you've done and record the information. In all the swim tracker can now automatically log your sets, rests, pace for each set and your distance for each stroke type.

There's also a new workout type for high-intensity interval training, and you can get into workouts quickly, starting them with a single tap.

You can also do multiple workouts at the same time and swipe to the side to switch between the exercises you're doing. It should make tracking triathlons much easier than before.

Plus, you can pair your Apple Watch with a wide range of gym equipment, to keep your fitness stats in sync. And when you start working out the Apple Watch can automatically enable Do Not Disturb mode, so you won't get interrupted.

The heart rate app has also been improved. It now shows a graph of your heart rate throughout the day, as well as showing averages when resting or walking, and alerting you if your heart rate rises higher than it should when you're inactive.

watchOS 4 music and more

The Apple Music app on Apple Watch will now automatically sync music. That means you can get Apple Music playlists like New Music Fix, Favorites Mix and your most listened to music downloaded directly to your watch offering you more options to listen to music while on the go.

But not only that, with watchOS 4.1 you'll also be able to stream music direct from Apple Music or Radio.

Apple is also bringing native core Bluetooth with watchOS 4. That will let you pair accessories with your watch and means you can pair other trackers such as a glucose monitor.

watchOS 4 also allows you to make person to person payments with Apple Pay. This is part of new Apple Pay upgrades for iOS 11, but also works on your Apple Watch too. 

Plus, you can now control your iPhone's video camera from your wrist, while the timer app can display seconds rather than just minutes.

You can also now get Apple News on your wrist, showing you the latest headlines (though you'll still need a larger device to read the full stories), and the Mail app has been reworked slightly, giving you more control. The Control Center also now has a flashlight function.

James Peckham

James is Managing Editor for Android Police. Previously, he was Senior Phones Editor for TechRadar, and he has covered smartphones and the mobile space for the best part of a decade bringing you news on all the big announcements from top manufacturers making mobile phones and other portable gadgets. James is often testing out and reviewing the latest and greatest mobile phones, smartwatches, tablets, virtual reality headsets, fitness trackers and more. He once fell over.