watchOS 7 adds new workouts, sleep tracking, shareable watch faces and handwashing

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watchOS 7 introduces new complications and watch face sharing
watchOS 7 introduces new complications and watch face sharing
Photo: Apple

WWDC 2020 Cupertino revealed Monday what it has up its sleeve for Apple Watch when the next iteration of watchOS debuts this fall.

Thanks to rumors and leaked betas over the past few months, we already expected many of the Apple Watch features showcased during the WWDC 2020 keynote, like watch face sharing and sleep tracking. But Apple still unleashed some surprises, including a redesigned and renamed Activity app. There’s even an automatic handwashing-detection feature that could help people keep COVID-19 and other nasties at bay.

All new Apps Watch face designs

If you like your complications seriously complicated, then the all new Infograph Pro Apple Watch face is for you. It features a tachymeter, designed for measuring speed. If you’re walking a mile, for example, you enter that distance into the tachymeter, start the timer and start walking. When you stop the timer, the hand will point at your average speed.

The new Infograph Pro watch face is like a slide rule you wear on your wrist.
The new Infograph Pro watch face is like a slide rule you wear on your wrist.
Photo: Apple

I’m not sure how useful this really is. The existing Workout app probably does a better job at this. It feels like using a slide rule when you already have a pocket calculator.

The previously unloved X-Large watch face gets a significant upgrade with the ability to add a rich complication.

However, it’s bad news if you’re bored with Apple’s designs for watch faces. Once again, there’s no news on support for third-party watch faces. At this point, it’s looking unlikely it will ever happen. Maybe Apple sees the watch face as such an integral part of the device that it doesn’t want anyone else messing with it.

Add multiple complications from a single app

Third-party complications from a single app can now completely take over your watch face, though. This is great if you’re a fan of Nike Run Club, for example, because you can have different running stats show up in each of the complication slots.

Face sharing allows you to download watch face layouts from websites
Face sharing allows you to download watch face layouts from websites
Photo: Apple

Apple Watch Face Sharing

Setting up an Apple Watch face can be a fiddly and time-consuming process. Apple addresses this in watchOS 7 with the introduction of Face Sharing. This enables you to send your favorite watch layouts to friends and family. You can even download these configurations from websites. That means you can look forward to a gallery of my exquisite watch face layouts right here on Cult of Mac very soon.

New workout types track your active calories more accurately

The new Dance workout uses machine learning to calculate the calories you burn more accurately.
The new Dance workout uses machine learning to calculate the calories you burn more accurately.
Photo: Apple

As usual, Apple took the opportunity to add support for a few new workout types this year, adding:

  • Dance
  • Functional Strength Training
  • Core Training
  • Cooldown

None of this looks particularly exciting or new at first glance. However, thanks to machine learning, watchOS 7 uses data from your horizontal and vertical arm rotation and vertical acceleration to detect your motion and calculate the calories you are burning more accurately.

The Activity app for iPhone also got a makeover, with a brand-new design that streamlines your activity and workout data. Plus, it gets a new name in watchOS 7: Fitness.

Sleep tracking will give competitors sleepless nights

After years of waiting, Apple finally decided to get into the sleep-tracking business. Similar to some third-party apps such as Sleep Cycle, watchOS 7 uses motion and heart rate data to monitor how much sleep you get each night.

Taking a “holistic” approach, watchOS 7 provides tools to help you wind down in the evening and make sure you get to bed on time.

Personally, I hate the idea of wearing my watch while I’m in bed. I’m surrounded by enough gadgets all day as it is, and my bed is my one sanctuary from them. But Sleep Tracking is a big category on the App Store, and this new feature looks set to be popular.

A bubbly new hand washing detection feature makes sure you get your filthy hands clean.
A bubbly new handwashing detection feature makes sure you get your filthy hands clean.
Photo: Apple

Handwashing detection makes sure you keep your filthy hands clean

In the era of COVID-19, it’s now more important than ever to keep your hands clean. And watchOS 7 is here to help with a new machine learning feature that uses motion data from the accelerometer, combined with audio of water sloshing around, to detect when you are washing your hands.

A bubbly timer graphic appears to make sure you keep washing for a full CDC-approved 20 seconds. (That means you won’t need to sing the “Happy Birthday” song anymore.) The Apple Watch will tell you off if you cheat, which could prove embarrassing in public restrooms. So, best to wash them properly from now on. No slacking!