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Wearable Tech

WatchOS 6 coming Sept. 19 with cycle tracking and hearing health

At its 2019 iPhone event, Apple refreshes its wearable OS for the Apple Watch with a focus on health.

watchos6

Apple CEO Tim Cook with WatchOS faces.

Screenshot by Lynn La/CNET
This story is part of Apple Event, our full coverage of the latest news from Apple headquarters.

At its annual September event this morning, Apple showed off the next major release of its wearable OS, WatchOS 6. At the event, held at the Steve Jobs Theater at its campus in Cupertino, California, Apple also rolled out new iPads, Apple Arcade, iPhones, Watch Series 5 smartwatches and Apple TV.

WatchOS 6, coming Sept. 19 for Apple Watch Series 3 and later, will help track menstrual cycles and fertility windows through a new app called Cycle Tracking, prevent gradual hearing loss through another app called Noise that notifies you when you are in a loud environment, and directly download apps through an App Store on the Apple Watch (instead of using your iPhone). The Apple Watch Series 5 smartwatches are coming Sept. 20, and Apple said WatchOS 6 will be available for Apple Watch Series 1 and 2 later this fall.

With the new update, Apple is rolling out three health studies that tie into the company's focus on health: Apple Hearing Study with the World Health Organization and University of Michigan, Apple Women's Health Study with Harvard and National Institutes of Health, and Apple Heart and Movement Study with the American Heart Association and Brigham and Women's Hospital. You can enroll in studies through the Apple research app later this year, Apple said.

Apple also expanded the capabilities of its digital search assistant Siri on WatchOS, which can now identify songs and bring up web results for your search queries, and the Reminders app Other additions include Voice Memo for recording voices and reminders, and Calculator, so you tap out calculations on the Apple Watch's tiny screen.

And of course, no WatchOS update is complete without a number of new watch faces. There's a two-toned interface called "gradient," and "infograph modular," which displays several watch complications on one screen that can be swapped around. A few new complications include player controls for your audiobooks, and another that works in conjunction with the Noise app to show your environment's decibel levels.

These updates, alongside the company's signature Apple Watch smartwatch, continue Apple's ambitions of seamlessly integrating software with its popular hardware devices. Apple's ability to control every aspect of its products -- something that began when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded the company in 1976 -- has been key in making it the most powerful company in tech.

watchos6-complication

The Noise app on WatchOS 6.

Apple

Other WatchOS features

WatchOS 6 will come packed with a basket of features that range from controling music to seeing activity trends, including:

  • Accessibility settings on watch
  • "Chance of rain" and "Wind" complications
  • Smart guidance in Maps
  • Spoken navigation in Maps
  • Shuffle workout playlist
  • Current elevation metric in workouts
  • Usage of Stopwatch app during workouts
  • Trends to track activity progress
  • Workout summary on watch 
  • Apple Podcasts stations
  • Shared list in Reminders
  • Dynamic smart replies
  • Shazam with Siri
  • For You in Apple Music
  • Account login on watch
  • Cellular connectivity complication
  • Tap to speak time
  • Mute Mail threads
  • Animoji stickers for messages
  • Siri web search results
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The update requires iOS 13, which will only run on iPhone 6S phones and later. It will be available for all Apple Watches (from the first Apple Watch to Apple Watch Series 4), but not all WatchOS 6 features will be accessible on all watches.

Originally published June 3. 
Update, June 4: Adds more information about WatchOS 6 and device compatibility; Sept. 10: Adds more information on WatchOS 6 features, health studies and release date.