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These new WatchOS 7 features take your Apple Watch to the next level

These new WatchOS 7 features take your Apple Watch to the next level


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WatchOS 7 is adding a few meaningful features.


Angela Lang/CNET

You don’t need the new Apple Watch Series 6 to take advantage of all the goodies in WatchOS 7, the latest software update for Apple’s smartwatches. The software is packed with features big and small, like a 20-second hand-washing feature that will automatically start a countdown when it detects you’re washing your hands and a new dance workout that tracks every step and calorie as you bust a move. 

But we want to show you three of our favorite additions and how to use them, including a new sleep tracker and one important change to watch faces. Read on for all the details (and here are some great, cheap accessories for your Apple Watch).

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This watch face has multiple complications from the same app, something that isn’t possible on WatchOS 6. 


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

1. WatchOS no longer limits watch face complications 

What it is: Apple has allowed third-party developers and Apple Watch owners to place small pieces of information, or complications, on a watch face for a while now. You can, for example, have a watch face that shows your daily agenda, the upcoming weather report from Dark Sky and a shortcut to the Messages app on your favorite watch face — in addition to the current time. But up until now, you’ve been limited to using just one complication from the same app on any watch face. 

Why it matters: Apple Watch owners and developers have wanted a way to place multiple complications from the same app on one watch face. For example, you can see Dark Sky’s current temperature output and the weekly forecast on the same face. 


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How you’ll use it: Editing your watch faces and adding complications is done the same way as it always has, but with an improved interface that’s easier to navigate. You can long-press on a watch face to enter Edit mode, swipe to the left across the face, tap the complication location you want to edit, then make your selection from the list. Alternatively, you’re able to continue editing and creating watch faces from within the Watch app on your iPhone ($699 at Amazon)

2. WatchOS 7 can track your sleep

What it is: A new Sleep app on the Apple Watch will not only track how long and well you sleep, but it’ll also help you wind down as your target bedtime gets near. 

Why it matters: Fitbit and other competing fitness trackers have had built-in sleep tracking for years, but the Apple Watch has lacked an official app. With the addition of sleep tracking, Apple Watch owners will have more data to take into account about their overall health. 

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Sleep tracking — yeah, it’s a thing now. 


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

How you’ll use it: After updating to WatchOS 7, you’ll need to set up the Sleep app, set your bedtime and a daily alarm. After the initial setup, your phone will show a Wind Down screen and turn on Do Not Disturb at a set amount of time before your target bedtime. At bedtime, your iPhone screen will dim and your watch will switch to Sleep mode. Effectively, your watch’s display won’t turn on, and alerts will be paused while in this mode. You’ll need to turn the digital crown to leave Sleep mode. 

Keep your watch on while you sleep, and in the morning you’ll be able to view how long you slept right on the watch. There’s even a battery meter that reminds you to charge your watch in the morning. 

3. Find and share custom watch faces

What it is: WatchOS 7 adds the ability for Apple Watch owners and app developers to create and share their own watch faces, including custom complication layouts and designs. 

Why it matters: Instead of spending countless hours going through watch faces and searching for apps with complications that you like, you will soon have access to countless new faces that come with a list of the apps you need to install in order to complete the look. 

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Once you find a watch face you like, you’ll be asked if you want to install all of the required apps to complete its look. 


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

How you’ll use it: Fellow Apple Watch owners will be able to post their favorite arrangements online or send them directly to you through iMessage. Developers will be able to post direct links to their watch faces for you to install as well. 

When you tap on a link to add the watch face to the Watch app on your iPhone, you’ll see a preview of it and then be presented with a list of the app complications used to create it, complete with direct links to download those apps so your new face isn’t left with blank complication spots. 

To share a watch face you created, either long-press on a face to enter edit mode and then tap on the share button, or open the Watch app on your iPhone and view your watch faces. Again, tap the share button and you’ll find a list of places you can share the face. 

Right now, it doesn’t look like you can post a link to the face directly on Facebook or Twitter. Instead, you’ll need to save your creation to a storage service like Dropbox or iCloud Drive, and then share a link to that folder or file. Otherwise, you can send your faces through iMessage. 

Haven’t installed WatchOS 7 yet? No sweat, we’ll walk you through the process. If you’re curious about the Apple Watch Series 6, make sure to read through our ongoing review, that’s being updated with new tidbits and information all the time. Once you’ve mastered your Apple Watch, read through our favorite hidden features in iOS 14.



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