Last year’s big update to the Apple Watch operating system brought a few serious improvements, but given how little changed with the Apple Watch 5, there wasn’t much room to introduce new features. That could change with watchOS 7, the next update likely coming with the Apple Watch 6.
Like with its other devices, Apple always pairs its Apple Watch releases with a big operating system update. But the timing is pretty much all we know about what’s coming with watchOS 7.
We'll know more we’ll know better when the company teases its end-of-year updates at WWDC 2020 keynote, which usually occurs around the midpoint of the year. That's when we're also likely to get our first teases of the Apple Watch 6, which will suggest what we're getting in watchOS 7.
In other words, we’ll list everything we absolutely know is coming in watchOS 7, followed by all the leaks and rumors we hear beforehand. Finally, we’ve got a list of what we’d really like to see.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The Apple Watch operating system’s next big software update
- When is it coming? Most likely in late September 2020
- How much will it cost? It will almost certainly be free
watchOS 7 beta and release date
Per precedent, it’s safe to say that the next annual watchOS update will come in late 2020 - most likely in September. That’s around when the Apple Watch launches tend to be, as well as the year’s new flagship iPhones.
It’s also when every other Apple operating system update is fully revealed, and they, like the next watchOS, become available either on the day of or in the weeks following. Thus, somewhere between late September and October is a safe guess for watchOS 7’s release date.
By now, we can safely say that watchOS 7 will be free, given that every Apple operating system update across its device range hasn’t cost users to upgrade. And while watchOS 6 wasn’t compatible with Apple Watch Series 1 and Apple Watch 2, the company has been readily selling the Apple Watch 3 at a nice discount. So we fully expect watchOS 7 to work with the Apple Watch 3 and newer.
watchOS 7: what we want to see
We still haven’t heard anything about watchOS 7 – no rumors, leaks, or hints at what’s coming. Granted, we’ll have a much better idea when we start to see Apple Watch 6 leaks and get a sense of new features will be enabled by the fresh operating system update.
Our first look at watchOS 7 will undoubtedly be at Apple’s WWDC 2020 keynote, which is typically in early June. It’s when we get our first official looks at all the products and software upgrades coming our way later in the year, and we’ll likely understand what’s coming in watchOS 7 a lot better with whatever’s revealed then.
This is just the start of our insight into where Apple’s smartwatch software may go.
We’ll be sure to see iPhone 12 leaks in the coming weeks and months, and that may be accompanied by Apple Watch 6 rumors, which should tip their hand to a watchOS 7 roadmap.
Come early June, we’ll have concrete facts around watchOS 7. Until then, here’s what we’d like to see.
Better battery-saving options
Our biggest complaint with the Apple Watch 5: the battery doesn’t last long enough, rarely surpassing a single day. While you can turn on the Power Reserve mode to preserve capacity, that turns every feature off and just lists the time.
That’s a last resort, not a battery-saving strategy. We’d love to see one or more different sub-modes that allow for more nuance in keeping your Apple Watch alive longer. Heck, we’d even go for granular control in turning off power-sucking modes one-by-one (like, say, always-on display) as well as clarity in how much time that would buy you.
Speaking of better battery life, one of the reasons we’d like more of it is to wear our Apple Watches through the night - paired with advanced sleep tracking, of course. We’ve been clamoring for Apple-refined sleep monitoring capabilities for years, and are sure that there’s room to expand the smartwatch’s software to fit the need.
But perhaps Apple is waiting for different sensors in the Apple Watch 6 - in which case, we’ll keep waiting.
Device ‘leash’ alerts
One of our favorite things: plenty of Apple devices. One of our least favorite things: accidentally leaving those devices behind. We’d love if our Apple Watches and iPhones would be linked a little closer - like if we left our iPhone somewhere, our Apple smartphone would alert us.
The idea, of course, would be to put a digital ‘leash’ on our smartphones - which is one of if not the most important thing we carry on our persons these days. It would make a lot of sense to try predicting user behavior enough to the point where Apple’s device family keeps tabs on each other when we do not.
On-device biometric authentication
One of the more exciting things that could be coming to the Apple Watch 6 is Touch ID through the display. A patent surfaced that showed a wearable design that moves the antenna into the watch band, ostensibly to give more room within the smartwatch for something like a fingerprint scanner.
That would work with plenty of Touch ID-based services that Apple has continued to support for all the handsets that still rely on fingerprint identification - like the iPhone 8 and older. There’s always the dream that Apple finds a different way to introduce biometric authentication to the Apple Watch - like the wearer’s particular heartbeat.
More precision in fitness apps
We’ve loved using our Apple Watches for workouts, but there’s always more they could do. We’d love to see more automatic detection of workouts - no manual switching between different activities - and smarter rep tracking.
- Still curious? Here's our best smartwatches page