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WatchOS 6: New faces, audiobooks and the App Store are coming to your wrist

WWDC 2019 – Apple’s annual developer conference – presented us with tons of new tidbits surrounding the forthcoming release of iOS 13, macOS Catalina and watchOS 6 (alongside the launch of a new Mac Pro and the heart-stoppingly pricey Pro Display XDR).

As a result, we’ve now got a bevvy of new features bound for our wrists to look forward to. Apple CEO, Tim Cook promised that these new features will make the Apple Watch “an even more indispensable part of your daily life” — but is that just hype, or is there real cause to be excited? Here’s the full breakdown of the biggest changes and additions.

Related: iOS 13

Apple Watch watchOS 6 new watch faces

1. New Watch Faces

The latest operating system brings many more new watch faces, making your Apple Watch far more customisable. Examples shown on stage included ‘California’, which sports a traditional look with customisable backdrop colours and numerals, as well as the option to view as a full-screen face or a circular face – similar to the existing Infograph face.

‘Gradient’ is a minimalist analogue face with a backdrop that can be set to almost any colour. You can choose the gradient’s start point and whether it displays as a full-screen or circular face.

The existing ‘Numerals’ face now comes in two new variations: ‘Numerals Mono’ and ‘Numerals Duo’. Mono shows only the hour, with analogue hands overlaid on top, while Duo is a digital face with hours and minutes. You can customise the colour and style of the numbers shown too.

Lastly, Apple showed off its new ‘Solar’ face, which features an animated backdrop that follows the position of the sun based on time of day – you can also view a fast-forwarded version of the animation by twisting the digital crown.

Apple Watch watchOS 6 Voice Memos

2. Voice Memos

Now, with the press of a new watch face complication, you can record voice memos by speaking straight into your wrist. This should make on-the-go organisation a whole lot more straightforward. You can also use the recording tech to send voice messages (such as nagging your children, if the keynote example is anything to go by).

Related: iPadOS features

Apple Watch watchOS 6 Tip Calculator

3. Calculator

There’s a new calculator app accessible directly on your Apple Watch. Well overdue but not particularly exciting, you may think. However, one particularly handy feature was highlighted during the demo — it allows you to conveniently calculate tips and bill-splitting fairly among your mates. Anything that spares you from torturous mental arithmetic after an evening out must be a good idea (still no calculator app for the iPad though).

Apple Watch watchOS 6 Cycle Tracker

4. Cycle Tracking

A new mode for women’s health named Cycle Tracking (attached to the existing Health app) is headed to watchOS. This allows women to record details of their menstrual cycle and it can also be used to indicate fertile windows for more informed family planning. Helpfully, it will also be fully available on iPhone too, so you don’t require an Apple Watch to access this new feature.

Apple Watch watchOS 6 Podcasts

5. Audiobooks

A new app for audiobooks makes its way onto watchOS and you won’t need your iPhone to run it. You can play them directly from your wrist to your Bluetooth headphones (AirPods, presumably) so that you can listen to a racy story on your run, even when you don’t have your iPhone to hand.

The real genius comes with the integration between watchOS’ audiobooks app and Apple Books. Titles in your ‘Reading Now’ list will automatically synchronise with your Apple Watch, letting you pick up from where you left off with a tap of the chosen book’s cover.

Apple Watch watchOS 6 App Store

6. App Store

You’ll soon be able to access the App Store directly from your Apple Watch; downloading, purchasing and installing apps without the need to use your iPhone. Not only will it be easier to access useful apps but it also means that apps can be run fully on the watch, which is a great opportunity for developers to design more bespoke experiences for your wrist.

Apple Watch watchOS 6 Activity Trends

Smarter analysis of your physical activity will compare nine key metrics based on your recent activity. It tracks progress by comparing your activity from the last 90 days to the last 365 days, presenting you with a more in-depth, long-term view of your physical fitness.

Apple Watch watchOS 6 Hearing Health

8. Hearing Health

As part of the expanded focus on health (beyond mere heart-rate tracking), your watch can now inform you if you’re listening to music too loudly or if you’re in a noisy environment that could damage your hearing in the long-term. Sadly, some Apple fans at the event missed this announcement, as they had their AirPods in.

9. Streaming Audio

In another move towards independence from the iPhone, apps can now directly stream audio from your Apple Watch. We’re looking forward to seeing how app developers take advantage of this latest tweak to the Apple ecosystem.

10. Taptic Chimes

Now your Watch can buzz and make a sound (such as birdsong) on the hour. Frankly, this feature sounds more annoying than helpful. All I’m saying is, be prepared to face down even more misanthropic stares at 8am on your morning commute if you choose to broadcast birdsong from your wrist.

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