watchOS 8 adds new Mindfulness app and Portrait watch face

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watchOS introduces a new Portrait mode watch face with depth effect
watchOS introduces a new Portrait mode watch face with depth effect
Photo: Apple

We got our first glimpse of the OS that will be gracing everyone’s wrists this fall when Apple showed off watchOS 8 during Monday’s WWDC keynote.

This update looks like more of an evolution than a revolution. Text editing gets a little easier.  And we’ll get various small enhancements for the apps we already know and love, like photo sharing and a redesigned Music app.

Portraits watch face puts mugshots on your wrist

In previous years, Apple spoiled us with the addition of many beautiful new watch faces. But this year it seems we’re only getting one. The new Portrait watch face harnesses the power of iPhone’s Portrait Mode to make the time appear behind people’s heads. It’s a neat visual trick, but at first glance it doesn’t look very different from the existing Photos face.

The Breathe app gets a new feature and a new name

Introduced in 2016, the Breathe app provides a simple way to relax with controlled breathing, using a technique similar to pranayama in yoga.

This year the app gets its first update, with a weird new molecular animation to replace the beautiful lotus flower and a feature inviting you to reflect upon various preloaded messages. Yeah, I don’t get it either.

To reflect the addition of reflections, the app has been renamed Mindfulness.

Jeanette Jenkins joins the Apple Fitness+ crew.
Jeanette Jenkins joins the Fitness+ crew.
Photo: Apple

A new trainer joins the Fitness+ team

Apple also revealed that it hired a new face to join its existing crew of 21 Fitness+ trainers. Former Fear Factor winner and celebrity trainer Jeanette Jenkins will present a series of HIIT and strength workouts.

In addition, support for Pilates and Tai Chi workouts has been improved. Plus, you can use Picture in Picture for Fitness+ videos on your iPhone.

Apple Watch can now track your Respiratory Rate.
Apple Watch can now track your Respiratory Rate.
Photo: Apple

Sleep tracking now supports Respiratory Rate

Cupertino added built-in sleep tracking support for Apple Watch last year. Now, watchOS 8 enhances this with Respiratory Rate, which monitors your breathing while you sleep.

This feature is already common in competitor sports watches, such as those made by Garmin. It could be another lifesaver, because changes in respiratory rate can be an early indicator of various medical conditions.

What is Apple still hiding up its sleeve?

With only two new apps announced — Tips and Contacts — this year might prove disappointing for Apple Watch fans. But don’t give up hope just yet. Apple often holds back some of the best new features for its new hardware announcement in the fall.

This year, rumor has it we can expect a brand-new design for Apple Watch Series 7. The hardware supposedly will gain flatter edges in line with Apple’s other recent designs for iPhone and iPad. We might see some new watch faces to go with that. Plus, rumors indicate Apple Watch might add fancy new health features such as blood glucose monitoring.