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The word "watchOS" in black San Francisco neo-grotesque sans-serif font.
WatchOS 6 screenshot.jpg
A customized watch face on watchOS 6
DeveloperApple Inc.
Written in
OS family
Working stateCurrent
Source modelClosed, with open-source components
Initial releaseApril 24, 2015; 6 years ago (2015-04-24)
Latest release7.6[1] (18U63)[2] (July 19, 2021; 9 days ago (2021-07-19)) [±]
Latest preview8.0 beta 4[3] (19R5312e)[4] (July 27, 2021; 1 day ago (2021-07-27)) [±]
Marketing targetSmartwatch
Available in40 languages[5][6]
Update methodOTA (via iPhone 5+ running iOS 8.2+)
Kernel typeHybrid (XNU)
Default user interfaceCocoa Touch (GUI)
LicenseProprietary software except for open-source components
Support status

watchOS is the operating system of the Apple Watch, developed by Apple Inc. It is based on iOS, the operating system used by the iPhone and iPod Touch, and has many similar features.[7] It was released on April 24, 2015, along with the Apple Watch, the only device that runs watchOS. watchOS exposes an API called WatchKit for developer use.

The second version, watchOS 2, included support for native third-party apps and other improvements, and was released on September 21, 2015.[8][9][10] The third version, watchOS 3, was released on September 13, 2016 to emphasize better performance and include new watch faces and stock apps. The fourth version, watchOS 4, was released on September 19, 2017. The fifth version, watchOS 5, was released on September 17, 2018[11] to add more third-party support and new workouts, along with the “Walkie-Talkie” feature.[12] The sixth version, watchOS 6, was released on September 19, 2019.[13] The seventh version, watchOS 7, was released on September 16, 2020 to support handwashing and sleep tracking.[14][15] The eighth version, watchOS 8, was announced on June 7, 2021 at WWDC, with updates in health monitoring, visuals, and apps.[16]

Interface overview[edit]

The home screen (rendered by and also known as "Carousel")[7] is composed of circular application icons, which can be zoomed in and out with the Digital Crown and dragged and launched by touching the display.

Prior to watchOS 3, Glances provided fast access to a summarized view of the most popular native or third-party applications used on Apple Watch.[17] The Glances view was opened with a swipe up gesture from the watch face screen. With watchOS 3, Glances was replaced by a redesigned Control Center – much like the one in iOS. The friends menu, invoked with the side button, now acts as a dedicated dock for apps.

Different actions and options appear depending on if the user taps or deep presses which an Apple Watch detects with its pressure-sensitive (Force Touch) Display.[18] Force Touch was completely removed in watchOS 7, and all actions requiring the feature were moved to specific options in the Settings app or to long-press actions.[19]

Supported health metrics[edit]

Since its inception, watchOS has supported an increasing number and variety of health metrics for measurement and/or tracking. These include:

  • heart rate
  • maximal aerobic capacity, otherwise known as VO2 max (added in watchOS 4,[20] enhanced in watchOS 7[21][22][23])
  • electrocardiogram, otherwise known as EKG or ECG (added in watchOS 5.1.2[24])
  • blood oxygen saturation, otherwise known as SpO2 (added in watchOS 7[21])
  • menstrual cycle status (added in watchOS 6[25])
  • sleep duration (added in watchOS 7[26][27])


For several years, Apple has been developing its HealthKit product in a bid to change the way people interact with their devices. There is also a conscious attempt to penetrate the lucrative healthcare and wellness industry, which many observers believe to hold a huge growth opportunity for Apple.[28] This was confirmed by Jony Ive, Apple's former chief designer, in an interview. He said that health was a crucial element in the Apple Watch since the day of its inception and that the developmental trajectory of the hardware and the watchOS were geared towards health-based capabilities.[29] Ive pointed out that one of the primary apps that shipped with the first watchOS allowed users to track and communicate as well as encourage them to move, exercise, and stand. He said:

Many of us have our phones with us all the time, but they aren't connected to you. Imagine having something this powerful with you at all times, and what opportunities that might present to the user. The opportunity is phenomenal. Particularly when [you] don't understand just where we are today in terms of technology and capability, but where we are headed.[29]

One of the most recent updates to the watchOS included applications that do not only keep users active but also diagnose illnesses. For example, there is the app called DeepHeart, a deep learning network that can detect atrial fibrillation, hypertension, sleep apnea, and diabetes.[30] It taps the HealthKit platform to collect data, particularly those collected by the Apple Watch's heart sensor.[31]

Version history[edit]

Legend:   Obsolete   Discontinued   Supported   Current   Beta

watchOS 1[edit]

WatchOS 1 was the first version of watchOS to be released. It came with iOS 8.2, instead of the initial release.

The first version of watchOS 1 was 1.0 and was based on iOS 8.2. The second version of watchOS 1 was 1.0.1 and was based on version 8.3.

watchOS 2[edit]

watchOS 3[edit]

watchOS 4[edit]

watchOS 5[edit]

WatchOS 5 was first shown to the public at the San Jose WWDC developer conference held by Apple. It had an instant watch-to-watch Walkie-Talkie mode.[42] With this release, Apple dropped support for the first generation Apple Watch.

watchOS 6[edit]

Apple announced a new version of watchOS that would contain features such as the App Store, a calculator with tip tools, an audiobooks app, noise level monitoring, and Apple's Voice Memos app.[52][53][54] It also enables special games that can only be played on the Watch interface. However, watchOS 6 has limited support on Apple Watch Series 1 and 2.

watchOS 7[edit]

Apple announced watchOS 7 at the 2020 Worldwide Developers Conference on June 22, 2020. With watchOS 7, Apple dropped support for Apple Watch Series 1 and 2. However, watchOS 7 has limited support on Apple Watch Series 3.

Table of versions: watchOS 7.x – Apple Watch

Limited support on the Apple Watch Series 3.

watchOS version iOS version based on Build Release date Features
7.0 iOS 14.0 18R382 September 16, 2020; 10 months ago (2020-09-16)

Initial Release on Apple Watch SE and Apple Watch Series 6

Drops support for the Apple Watch Series 1 and Apple Watch Series 2

  • Watch Faces
    • Updated Faces
      • Chronograph Pro gains a tachymeter (Series 4 or later only)
      • X-Large adds support for one large complication
      • Photos face provides colour filters for pictures and more customization options
      • Updated colours for many watch faces
    • Complications
      • Apps may now include more than one complication
      • New and/or updated Sleep, Shortcuts, Camera Remote, Moon Phase and World Clock complications
    • Watch Face Sharing
      • Ability to share custom Watch Faces through Mail, Messages, or posting a link
  • Sleep Tracking
    • Apple Watch uses the accelerometer to measure sleep
    • See logged sleep, manage schedules and set alarms in the new Sleep app
    • New alarm sounds and haptics
    • Wind Down mode
    • Sleep Mode automatically enables Do Not Disturb and disables Raise to Wake
    • Reminders to charge your Apple Watch in the evening if below 30% charge
    • Notifications on iPhone when Apple Watch is finished charging
    • Wake up screen displays after your alarm, showing the weather and your battery level
  • Activity
    • Workouts
      • New Dance, Functional Strength Training, Core Training and Cooldown workouts
    • Mobility Metrics
      • Support for low-range cardio fitness, walking speed, stair-descent speed, stair-ascent speed, six-minute walk distance, double support time, step length, and asymmetry metrics in the Health app on iPhone, tracked by Apple Watch
    • Exercise and Stand goals can now be modified in addition to the Move goal
    • Activity app renamed Fitness app on iPhone
  • Maps
    • Cycling Directions
      • Cycling specific directions in Maps in supported areas
      • Choose routes based on intensity and duration
      • Alerts about upcoming stairs and dismount locations
  • Handwashing (Series 4 or later only)
    • Automatic handwashing detection with a 20 second timer
    • Handwashing reminder when arriving home
  • Siri
    • Translation support for 10 languages
    • Support for Announce Messages with Siri
    • New Siri UI
  • New Apps
    • New Shortcuts app, and ability to choose visible shortcuts on Apple Watch from iPhone
    • New Memoji app with support for editing and creating new Memoji (Series 4 or later only)
  • Dictation
    • Dictation is processed on-device (Series 4 or later only)
  • Privacy
    • Microphone icon appears onscreen when in use
  • Headphones
    • Ability to set a decibel volume limit for headphones
    • Reminders to reduce volume if above World Health Organization's limits
  • Family Setup (Cellular Series 4 or later only, in supported countries)
    • Pair Apple Watches for family members that do not have their own iPhone, aimed at children and seniors
    • Activity metrics are more accurate for children, and Apple Watch now measures move minutes rather than active calories
    • Apple Cash Family allows children to receive money using Apple Cash
    • Enhanced parental controls, including approved contacts and apps, and Schooltime
  • Schooltime
    • Displays a standard yellow watch face and turns on Do Not Disturb to limit distractions
    • Can be manually enabled through the Control Centre, or scheduled and remotely enabled for child watches using Family Setup
7.0.1 iOS 14.0.1 18R395 September 24, 2020; 10 months ago (2020-09-24)
  • Fixes an issue where some payment cards in Wallet were disabled for some users
7.0.2 18R402 October 12, 2020; 9 months ago (2020-10-12)
  • Fixes an issue where the battery drained too quickly
  • Fixes an issue that blocked access to the ECG app
7.0.3 18R410 October 19, 2020; 9 months ago (2020-10-19)
  • Fixes an issue that causes unexpected restarts with Series 3 watches
7.1 iOS 14.2 18R590 November 5, 2020; 8 months ago (2020-11-05)
  • Headphone audio level notifications
  • Adds ECG and irregular heart rhythm notifications support in South Korea and Russia
  • Fixed: Unlocking Mac with Apple Watch fails
  • Fixed: Always-on display failure on Apple Watch Series 6
7.2 18S564 December 14, 2020; 7 months ago (2020-12-14)
  • Adds support for Apple Fitness+ (Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, UK, and US only)
  • Cardio fitness notifications
  • AFiB notifications now available at heart rates above 100 BPM
  • Adds ECG support in Taiwan
  • Adds braille displays with VoiceOver support
  • Family Setup now available in Bahrain, Canada, Norway, and Spain
7.3 18S801 January 26, 2021; 6 months ago (2021-01-26)
7.3.1 18S811 February 15, 2021; 5 months ago (2021-02-15)
7.3.2 18S821 March 8, 2021; 4 months ago (2021-03-08)
7.3.3 18S830 March 26, 2021; 4 months ago (2021-03-26)
7.4 18T195 April 26, 2021; 3 months ago (2021-04-26)
7.4.1 18T201 May 3, 2021; 2 months ago (2021-05-03)
7.5 18T567 May 24, 2021; 2 months ago (2021-05-24)
  • Subscription content in Podcasts app
  • Apple Card with a Family Sharing
  • Support for ECG app on Series 4 or later in Malaysia and Peru
  • Support for irregular heart rhythm notifications in Malaysia and Peru
7.6 18U63 July 19, 2021; 9 days ago (2021-07-19)

watchOS 8[edit]

Apple announced watchOS 8 at the 2021 Worldwide Developers Conference on June 7, 2021. Apple Watch models supporting watchOS 7 can also support watchOS 8. However, like watchOS 7, watchOS 8 has limited support on Apple Watch Series 3.

Table of versions: watchOS 8.x – Apple Watch

Limited support on the Apple Watch Series 3.

watchOS version iOS version based on Build Release date Features
8.0 beta 4 19R5312e July 27, 2021; 1 day ago (2021-07-27)

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ "watchOS 7.6 (18U63) - Releases - Apple Developer". Apple Developer. Apple Inc. July 19, 2021. Retrieved July 19, 2021.
  3. ^ Clover, Juli (July 27, 2021). "Apple Seeds Fourth Beta of watchOS 8 to Developers". MacRumors. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  4. ^ "watchOS 8 beta 4 (19R5312e) - Releases - Apple Developer". Apple Developer. Apple Inc. July 27, 2021. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
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External links[edit]