During the 2018 Worldwide Developers Conference keynote today, Apple revealed watchOS 5, the latest version of its Apple Watch operating system. It began the discussion by touting the Apple Watch as the leading smart watch in customer satisfaction, noting that its sales grew 60 percent in 2017, and that the device has actually saved lives. The company previously noted that the Apple Watch was the best-selling watch in the world.
watchOS 5 is expected to help Apple compete even more aggressively with Fitbit health trackers, which have remained competitive with the Apple Watch thanks to their lower price points. The new OS includes Competitions within the Activity app that let you challenge friends with up to seven-day rivalries. A new badge is earned for winning a Competition.
Workouts has added new workout types for Yoga and Hiking, the latter with elevation tracking. Rolling Mile Pace is being added for outdoor runs, plus a custom pace alert and Cadence. Automatic workout tracking is being added, enabling you to receive retroactive credit for tracked activity you forgot to manually tag as a workout. watchOS 5 will also include automatic end alerts to let you stop tracking when no activity is detected.
Walkie-Talkie is being added to let you send quick voice memos from person to person. It works over Wi-Fi or cellular connections, and you can send quick real-time audio from watch to watch.
The Siri watchface will now incorporate additional types of information, including sports scores, Siri Shortcuts, and third-party apps — including relevant content and shortcuts. You’ll also be able to just raise your wrist and start talking to the watch rather than needing to say “Hey Siri.”
Notifications will be more interactive than before, as well — you’ll be able to pay for rides directly within the Watch version of an app, respond back to Yelp reservations, and view web content within Mail and Messages via WebKit on watchOS. The Podcasts app is being added to the Watch as well, and third-party apps will be able to play background audio. Additionally, Student ID cards can be synchronized to the Apple Watch, starting in the fall at a handful of universities.
A new Pride watch face discovered in watchOS 4.3.1 is also being unlocked today, using a series of animated strings to create a rainbow on the Apple Watch screen. Apple is also offering a new version of its Pride rainbow watch band, starting today.
watchOS 5 is the first version to break ties with the original Apple Watch, which debuted in 2015. The new OS is expected to end support for watchOS 1 apps as well. Apple previously warned developers that an upcoming version of watchOS would end compatibility with the first generation of watchOS apps, requiring that apps get updated with at least the three-year-old watchOS 2 SDK. A number of prominent iOS app makers abruptly discontinued their earlier Apple Watch apps earlier this year without explanation, including Twitter, Lyft, Instagram, Google, Amazon, eBay, and Target, potentially in preparation for major updates.
The first beta of watchOS 5 will likely become available to registered developers later today, without a public beta program. Developers and members of the public should exercise caution when installing the new beta, as initial watchOS releases have tended to be unstable and dramatic in battery drain before settling later in the testing cycle.