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WatchOS 7: Why the new Apple Watch changes matter and how you’ll use them


WatchOS 7 is adding a few meaningful features.

Angela Lang/CNET

Apple revealed WatchOS 7 during its WWDC keynote last week, showing off some of the new features that will come to the next version of the software that will power the Apple Watch. The update isn’t expected to ship until this fall, and is currently only available as a developer beta. We’re eyeing three new features in particular that will forever change how you use your Apple Watch. 

The Apple Watch will also receive some minor but potentially useful features. For example, a new hand-washing feature will start a countdown timer when it detects movement associated with someone washing their hands, to make sure you get your 20 seconds in. There’s also a new dance workout as part of Apple’s fitness tracking that will count every calorie while you bust a move.

More importantly, WatchOS 7 will change how you look at your Apple Watch ($399 at Apple), how you interact with it at bedtime and even how you style the watch face by downloading or sharing custom faces with a couple of taps.


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 allows third-party developers and Apple Watch owners to place small pieces of information, or complications, on a watch face. 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. 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 complication plus the weekly forecast on the same face. 

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How you’ll use it: Editing your watch faces and adding complications looks to be done the same way as it always has, but with an improved interface that’s easier to navigate. App names and complication previews look like they’re easier to view and pick from. 

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 should be able to continue editing and creating watch faces from within the Watch app on your iPhone ($699 at Apple)


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

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

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. 

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 right before your target bedtime. At bedtime, your iPhone screen will dim and your watch will switch to the Sleep watch face. Keep your watch on while you sleep, and in the morning you’ll be able to view how well you slept and for how long 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. 

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. 

Sharing a watch face you created looks like it’s currently done in the Watch app or directly from the watch itself.

Apple also announced iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, and released a developer preview. The update includes plenty of new features, with major changes to the iPhone’s home screen, along with tweaks to Siri and Messages


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

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