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watchOS 11

watchOS 11

watchOS 11 offers more ways to view collected data like a Vitals app and Training Load. It is a minimal update with few UI changes beyond Live Activities in the widget view and rest days for workout streaks. Double Tap can finally be targeted by a developer API for use in third-party apps.

● Vitals app
● Pregnancy features
● Training Load
● Live Activities
● New photos face algorithm
● Releasing fall 2024

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Apple continues to polish the mature Apple Watch operating system by utilizing existing data points to provide more useful and actionable information. The Vitals app, Training Load metrics, and other similar features make up a significant portion of user-facing updates introduced in watchOS 11.

In addition to new metrics and data, Apple has added a few small updates to the UI. Since watchOS 10 introduced a significant redesign, Apple kept the overall OS changes minimal.

The limited display space and computing power of Apple Watch make watchOS a challenging platform to update consistently. Despite WWDC 2024 having a focus on Apple Intelligence, none of those features are coming to Apple Watch — at least not directly.

While on-device AI interactions won't be possible, there is a chance that Apple will let users communicate with the upgraded Siri through their Apple Watch. However, processing would occur on the iPhone or with Private Cloud Compute.

watchOS 11 features

There are a limited number of features coming to watchOS 11, and unlike other operating systems like macOS Sequoia, it doesn't benefit from inheriting everything coming to iOS 18. The most significant updates revolve around repackaging existing data points in a readable and actionable way that wasn't possible before, at least not without third-party apps.

The watchOS 11 bento showcasing new features Apple introduced several new features for watchOS 11

Despite extensive customization options coming to iOS, Apple continues to offer the same limited options for Apple Watch. There is an updated photo watch face feature with an interesting algorithm for producing good-looking images, but that's it.

The widget view now has access to Live Activities, the same ones that appear on the iPhone Dynamic Island. Developers don't need to do anything to support these new updating widgets.

Vitals app

Vitals is a new app introduced with watchOS 11 that allows users to measure important health metrics gathered during sleep. These metrics are compared to a baseline to determine when something is outside the expected range.

Three screenshots of Vitals app showing outlying data and a typical chart Vitals turns various metrics into actionable data

Metrics gathered include:

  • Heart rate
  • Respiratory rate
  • Wrist temperature
  • Sleep duration
  • Blood oxygen

If two or more metrics fall out of their typical range, users are notified. Vitals will explain how elevation, alcohol, or illness could affect the out-of-range metrics.

The Vitals app and analysis rely on information developed from the Apple Heart and Movement Study.

Blood oxygen detection is still turned off on new Apple Watches sold in the United States. Apple may have a workaround in hardware, but it would require buying the new models that launch later in 2024.

Pregnancy tracking

If a user logs an active pregnancy in the Health app, it will shift some aspects of the Health and Cycle Tracking apps to account for it. For example, the Cycle Tracking app will show the user's gestational age with an option to log symptoms.

The Cycle Tracking app on iPhone and Apple watch showing different pregnancy data The Cycle Tracking app can tell you about your pregnancy too

When people are pregnant, their heart rate increases, so Apple will prompt pregnant users to update their high heart rate notification threshold. That way, there is a reduced risk of false alarms.

Users can also be reminded to take monthly mental health assessments. Since depression and other conditions are higher risks during pregnancy, users can use the assessments to determine if more help is needed.

Walking steadiness alerts are active during the third trimester of pregnancy.

Training Load

Workouts performed over a month will establish a baseline to determine a metric called Training Load. It determines the strain on the user's body from workouts performed over the previous seven days.

Different Training Load charts showing well above, steady, and below average workouts Training Load compares the last week of workout data to the last month

Training Load is determined by measuring the intensity and duration of workouts compared to the baseline. Apple wants the metric to provide a useful overview of the effectiveness of workouts over time.

For example, watchOS 11 could help users prepare for events like a 5K or bike race using Training Load. An effort rating after each workout is shown from 1 to 10 based on age, height, weight, GPS, heart rate, and elevation.

Manual entry is needed for strength training. Users can adjust the rating if they believe it misrepresents the intensity of the workout.

The 28-day training load is a weighted average. It is compared to a 7-day average to provide a rating of well below, below, steady, above, or well above. These indicate if the user is ramping up or slowing down their fitness regimen.

Rest days and Apple Fitness+ updates

The biggest finally of WWDC arrived during the watchOS 11 presentation. Users will be able to pause their streaks in case of sickness or rest days.

Screenshots showing rest days for workout streaks and Fitness+ personalization Set a rest days or manage personalized Fitness+ workouts

A streak can be paused at any time for as long as is needed — a day, week, month, or any custom length. There are users who have streaks dating back to the original Apple Watch release that have had to abandon them in the event of being bedridden or injured in any way.

The Fitness app on iPhone is getting some customization options. Users can choose which metrics are shown in the rings displayed at the top of the app. Fitness will also provide new metrics for workouts like running, hiking, swimming, and mindfulness.

Apple Fitness+ has been redesigned with For You, Explore, and Library sections for curating content. Rather than seeing a pre-organized set of workouts, they will appear based on usage history and preferences for each tab.

Watch faces

Despite obvious demand, Apple still hasn't added a third-party watch face store. However, Apple did include an interesting new photos watch face that algorithmically finds the most suitable images in the user's library for watch face use.

Three smartwatches with different colorful bands display weather, fitness, and health data on their screens. Apple Watch gets a new portrait watch face

There has been a slow shift in the past few watchOS releases that somewhat deemphasize the watch face. The Smart Stack has always-updating information and now Live Activities, for example.

Since new watch faces are a motivation to upgrade to a new watchOS version, Apple may be holding out on new faces for a future release. There's also some chance that the rumored larger Apple Watch Series 10 might come with new optimized faces.

watchOS 11 release date and compatibility

Apple will release watchOS 11 to the public after a beta period through the summer. It will be released alongside iOS 18, iPadOS 18, macOS Sequoia, tvOS 18, and visionOS 2.

Compatible devices:

Support for Apple Watch Series 4, Apple Watch Series 5, and the first-generation Apple Watch SE has been dropped with watchOS 11.