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Saturday, October 23, 2021

New features and improvements in watchOS 8 I want announced at WWDC 2021

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watchOS 7 Shortcuts ComplicationsSource: Joseph Keller / iMore

With WWDC 2021 fast approaching, the new software for all of Apple’s platforms will be unveiled soon. I have said before that the rumor mill and leaked details of WWDC 2021 have been scarce this year, leaving me with a pretty lean list of expectations for the big event in June. While my expectations for WWDC 2021 may be a bit tempered, I still like to let my imagination run wild.

Soon, Apple will reveal what they have planned for watchOS 8, which will be the future operating system for the best Apple Watch, and since the Apple Watch is constantly on my wrist, it’s probably the Apple device I interact with the most. While watchOS 7 has been great, here are the features I want to see in watchOS 8.

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Rework the breathe app into a mental health app

Apple Watch Breathe appSource: iMore

When I think about the Apple Watch’s future, I believe mental health monitoring and tracking should be a big part of the conversation. If this past year and a half has taught us anything, it’s that we all could use a little more support and tools at our disposal for when times get tough. Plus, other trackers are getting a head start on Apple Watch in this area.

For example, our good friends at Android Central did a great Fitbit Sense review, which looks at the mental health features Fitbit included. It’s new, a little choppy, and perhaps not the most elegant way to track stress, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

Apple can do this better, and I think it can start by taking its Breathe app — an app I use every day to help with my anxiety — at making it a much more robust mental health app that gives you even more tools to help monitor and manage your mental health.

I think a good start would be a simple mood tracker. Mood tracking is a beneficial tool for many people because it allows you to be honest with yourself about how you feel at any given moment and start to analyze what in your life might be causing unwanted stress or anxiety. On top of that, once you’ve been doing it for a while, you can take a step back and look at a period of time — say a month — and see even more patterns in your mood fluctuations. Knowing when you feel bad or when you feel good can really help, and why you feel that way at certain times can help you start to put some of the puzzle pieces together and manage your mental health much more effectively.

Time To Walk On Apple Watch SeSource: Luke Filipowicz / iMore

That’s not all I think would be helpful for Apple to add in watchOS 8; I think they could start treating mental health more like physical health on the Apple Watch. I don’t know if having a mental health ring — like the Activity Rings — would be the best answer, but it would be nice to have some way to track how much time you’ve spent working on your mental health every day. Much like the Activity Rings, you could set different goals, and every little bit helps. Use the Breathe app for one minute? That’s a minute you took in your day to manage your mental health. Mental health and physical health don’t always have to be separate either.

I have been using the Time to Walk feature in Apple Fitness+ as one way to meditate since it launched, and I love that it also helps me contribute to my exercise goal for the day. There’s no reason Time to Walk couldn’t do both and help you make progress on both your exercise ring and mental health “ring.” Apple could even start producing Time to Walk episodes focused on mental health, kind of like a guided meditation. Heck, Apple could go all-in on mental health and offer a whole new service that offers guided meditations much like popular apps like Headspace and Calm do — the possibilities are almost endless.

You don’t even have to have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, like I do, to appreciate these features if they come to Apple Watch in watchOS 8. Everyone gets stressed out, and it’s been proven that stress can have dire ramifications on your physical health. Everyone should be mindful of their stress levels and learn coping mechanisms to deal with stress and anxiety when it becomes heightened.

Keep in mind that I’m definitely not a mental health professional, and I’m sure there are many other ideas (heck, even better ideas) that could help a lot more people than what I mentioned above. My main point is I just want to see Apple take the initiative and put mental health features into watchOS 8.

Widgets

Apple Watch series 3 with Wi-Fi Control CenterSource: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore

I know what you’re thinking, the Apple Watch screen is way too small for widgets, but I think widgets would be far more useful and provide better information than the current Apple Watch Home screen.

Think about it, whether you use the grid view or list view for your Home screen, it’s not like you can see every app installed on your Apple Watch anyways. You still have to scroll or navigate to whichever app you’re trying to open anyways, so why not make widgets that are slightly bigger blocks that allow you to see maybe a tiny bit of info from the app as well.

It’s not that hard to imagine the Home screen fitting slightly bigger icons in an organized fashion. Think about the Control Center view on the Apple Watch — imagine if your Home Screen was customizable with different widgets that look similar in size to those. Much like the iPhone, you can still have a list of all your apps in an App Library on a second Home screen. Just swipe left, and boom, there’s your list.

Sure, Apple Watch has complications which is a great way to get information quickly on your watch face, but complications are limited, and you can only have so many on a watch face. If Apple made widgets for all its apps and allowed developers to create widgets for third-party apps, the amount of info you could get on your Apple Watch by just looking at it for a few seconds would be much greater.

Multiple timers

Seriously, it’s 2021; why can’t I set multiple timers on my Apple Watch? Get on it, Apple.

Better sleep tracking

Apple Watch using Sleep appSource: Luke Filipowicz / iMore

Surprise! One of the things I want Apple to include in watchOS 8 isn’t a new feature, but rather a big improvement to an existing one — the Sleep app.

I’ve mentioned before how the Sleep app might help you sleep better, and while I certainly appreciate the focus Apple took on improving your sleep, it doesn’t offer a ton of sleep tracking data.

Almost every other fitness tracker that offers sleep tracking has a bit more data to give you when you check in the morning, and I’d love to see Apple offer more stats with my morning coffee. Let me know how much time I spent in REM, deep, and light sleep — I want a detailed breakdown, Apple.

It also just needs to get better at telling the difference between laying in bed and sleeping. When I go into the Sleep section of the Health app on my phone, I have noticed recorded sleep times that I definitely wasn’t sleeping. Sometimes it’s from me laying in bed and reading a book or taking off my Apple Watch entirely while I shower. The Sleep app was a great addition to watchOS 7, but I want watchOS 8 to improve it.

What do you want to see in watchOS 8?

Do you have a feature you’re dying to see in watchOS 8? Let us know in the comment section down below.

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