Apple is almost certain to introduce a new Apple Watch in September, just as it has done every year since the first Apple Watch was unveiled. But you don't necessarily have to buy new hardware to keep up with the latest improvements. Just like with the iPhone, many of the best Apple Watch upgrades come from Apple's major annual operating system updates.
When watchOS 6 lands in the fall, it's going to bring a lot of good things to the fancy little wrist computer. Now that we've been using the beta for a while, we've come to recognize these as our new favorite features.
California watch face
There are quite a few new watch faces in watchOS 6, but the best ones by far are called California. It is not only the best of the new watch views, it is the best watch sight, period.
California starts with a beautiful aesthetic known for traditional watches, and you can customize it in dozens of ways. You can fill the Apple Watch screen with a full-screen design or choose a circular face with room for complications. Change between Roman numerals, Arabic numerals, Roman / Arabic divided, or even Arabic indications or Devanagari. There are many dozens of color choices.
California will become the Apple Watch face for millions of users.
Noise pollution is a real problem, and too much exposure to loud noises can cause long-term hearing damage. It is hard to know when you are in an area that is too loud, or how long you can safely be exposed to that noise.
That's why the new Noise app is such a good idea. Apple Watch constantly measures the sound level in the environment – without saving or transmitting anything, of course. You can look at a vivid and surprisingly accurate noise meter, even on the complications, and the clock will give you a warning when you are exposed to a dangerous noise level.
It's the perfect health feature to wear your wrist, really.
Until watchOS 6, if you wanted to run an app on Apple Watch, you had to install it on your iPhone. It's great when you want a watch-based companion to an app you want to use on your phone first and foremost, but there are many apps we really only want on our watch.
I used to have a folder on my iPhone full of "Apple Watch" apps I've literally never touched on my phone.
With watchOS 6, developers can finally create apps that exist only clockwise, with no iPhone counterpart. Apple even has an App Store on the clock, although frankly it's a bit tricky to use on the tiny screen.
Relive the glory days of your old Casio Databank with the Calculator app! It seems like a rough oversight that a calculator wasn't a core feature of Apple Watch from day one, but better late than never.
Despite the tiny buttons, the Calculator app is quite usable on Apple Watch. And it even has a quick and easy built-in tip calculator that lets you adjust the tip percentage and split the bill.
It has taken too long for Apple to incorporate menstrual cycle tracking into health functions, especially considering that it can be very useful for almost half of users.
Once you've set up your menstrual cycle tracking in the Health app on your iPhone, you can do all the important parts of the Bike Tracking app on the Apple Watch. Tell it quickly when the period starts or stops, notice the flow or other symptoms, and Siri will eventually begin to predict your cycle for you, giving you alerts to help you stay up to date.
One of our favorite apps for iPhone and Apple Watch is Just Press Record. It gives you fast, high-quality, one-touch recording from your iPhone or Apple Watch, with cloud-synced data.
With voice watch on Apple Watch, we may not need it anymore. Simply tap on the complication and press to record, and you'll get a surprisingly clear recording synced to all your devices via iCloud.
Just tap Record still has a voice memo leg – it does multilingual voice transcription and can start recording with just one tap on the clock complication – but the average person will do just fine with Apple's free built-in alternative. Once you get used to "taking notes" of quick notes with your voice, the convenience of having it on your wrist becomes clear.