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Apple announces watchOS 11 with new training features and Live Activities

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Apple just announced watchOS 11, the latest version of its smartwatch platform, at WWDC 2024. Developers will be able to start tinkering with it starting today, while a public beta will arrive sometime next month. As in past years, a final public release is expected sometime this fall alongside the new Apple Watches.

As always, each version of watchOS comes with new health features. This year, athletes are getting something called Training Load, which takes the intensity and duration of workouts over the past 28 days into consideration. You'll also be able to include an "effort rating" on a scale of one to 10 for workouts. Popular cardio workouts will have an automatically generated effort rating using a combination of your personal data and metrics collected from the workout. As with other fitness platforms, you'll be able to compare how your seven-day training load compares to your 28-day load. The idea is to give you more insight as to whether you should push harder, ease off, or stay at the same rate.

It's so beautiful. Finally, rest days won't wreck your streak.

Image: Apple

Folks who have been clamoring for rest days on the Apple Watch will also be chuffed to know getting sick or injured will no longer break streaks. Specifically, you can now hit pause on your activity rings. You'll also be able to adjust your activity ring goals based on the day of the week. So if you know you're going to have a hard time squeezing in a workout on Thursdays, you'll be able to lower your goal.

Much like the iOS 18 updates, the fitness app is also getting a more customizable Summary tab. You'll be able to arrange widgets that show metrics that you're most interested in, including new ones for running, hiking, swimming, and mindfulness.

The Workout app will also add GPS routes to more workout types, including soccer, American football, Australian football, outdoor hockey, lacrosse, various types of skiing, snowboarding, golf, and outdoor rowing. You'll also be able to create custom pool workouts as well as view turn-by-turn navigation directly from the Apple Watch in the Maps app — even if you don't have a phone with you.

Training Load is meant to help athletes determine whether to push or ease off.

Image: Apple

There will also be a new Vitals app that gives you a glance at overnight health metrics such as heart rate, respiratory rate, wrist temperature, sleep duration, and blood oxygen. (Well, at least on Apple Watches that still support the blood oxygen feature.) When two or more metrics are outside of the normal range, the app will notify users and give some extra context as to what may have caused the changes (e.g., illness, one too many drinks at an event, etc.).

Cycle Tracking is also getting an update that allows pregnant users to show gestational age, as well as the ability to log pregnancy symptoms. The Health app will also add some additional reminders and alerts, such as monthly mental health assessments and notifications regarding walking steadiness in the third trimester if an increased fall risk is detected.

This is great for me, specifically.

Image: Apple

With watchOS 11, Live Activities will be coming to the Apple Watch. There will also be new safety features, so if you take late-night runs, your friends will be able to keep tabs on you. For workouts, this will happen automatically. This is similar to the safety features introduced on the Pixel Watch 2 last year.

Live Activities will also play into the Smart Stack, which Apple introduced last year with watchOS 10. For example, if you have a concert ticket in the Wallet app, you might see seat information pop up in the widget stack. The Smart Stack will also more intelligently shuffle relevant widgets depending on what you need. The new Translation app will automatically pop up if you travel to an area where the native language differs from the one on your Apple Watch. If there's a thunderstorm creeping up in your area, you might see the weather widget instead. There'll also be more widgets, including those from Shazam, Photos, and Distance.

Double tap, which was introduced last year, will also get a few new tricks. Mainly, you'll be able to use it to scroll within supported apps like Messages, Calendar, or Weather. Developers will also get access to the double tap, Live Activities, and Smart Stack APIs, so hopefully the feature and smart stack will be a bit more robust with third-party apps going forward.

The Photos watchface is getting a revamp.

Surprisingly, there weren't many new watchfaces this year. Instead, Apple emphasized a new redesigned Photos watchface. The revamped Photos face now uses machine learning to make recommendations on aesthetic styles, composition ,and facial expressions from your library. There'll also be more customization options with time size, layout, and fonts.

There weren't really any AI-focused updates in watchOS 11, though you will be able to view Apple Intelligence summaries forwarded from the iPhone. (Though they'll have to be at least the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max.)

This year will be the Apple Watch's 10th anniversary, and there have been murmurs that Apple may go all out on a special "X" version like it did for the iPhone. That said, software updates aren't always indicative of what hardware changes may be in store. For instance, Apple billed last year's watchOS 10 as a "milestone" update after it revamped the UI to focus more on widgets, but it held little bearing on the Series 9's actual hardware.

watchOS 11 will be available for the Apple Watch Series 6 or later. While rumors before WWDC hinted that watchOS 11 might drop support for the Series 4, it's a bit surprising to see support dropped for the Series 5 and first-gen SE as well.

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