When it comes to the world of watches, most editors and horologists would agree that it takes two things for a watch to become a covetable commodity: a brilliant story and an even better design. But when it comes to smartwatches, it’s a whole different ball game. It has to be beyond functional and essentially play the part of a highly-efficient personal assistant—at a glance. The Apple Watch excels at the latter, as proven by its popularity amongst smartwatch users. With the arrival of watchOS 9 slated for release in fall, the Apple Watch will have more to offer than ever before.
The most obvious thing that makes the Apple Watch and its likes stand apart from traditional timepieces is its face, in the sense that it’s customisable. You could practically wear a different watch face everyday without ever having to remove the watch from your wrist. With watchOS 9, you’ll have access to an even greater number of watch faces, among other cool features.
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“It starts with a simple conversation,” says Kevin Chen, human interface designer at Apple, when asked about the process of designing a new watch face. He even describes it as being serendipitous. A discussion in their open studio leads to an idea, followed by a sketch, which eventually becomes a watch face. “If it makes sense,” he adds. From there, it’s all about tweaking and tinkering with the concept till it’s perfect.
What qualifies a watch face as perfect, you ask? At Apple, it’s all about timelessness. “It’s a word that we always grade our watch faces on,” Chen explains. It’s also about their distinguished watch hands and in-house designed fonts such as San Francisco, he adds.
One of the most notable watch faces launching with watchOS 9 has got to be the Lunar face, featuring phases of the moon. “Lunar timekeeping has been important to cultures around the world,” Chen posits. “And when designing the watch face with my team, we saw an opportunity to express the different ways we experienced and chart time across different cultures, specifically calendaring time,” he adds.
The lunar watch face was designed to be a lunar-first experience. Case in point: The current moon phase is placed front and centre, followed by its relationship to the Gregorian calendar at the bottom. This way, users get to chart traditional and cultural holidays such as Lunar New Year and Mid-Autumn festival while keeping up to date with the Gregorian calendar. Users will also be able to choose between three different lunar calendars: Chinese, Hebrew and Islamic.
New Apps and Advanced Features
You can also customise these watch faces to help with productivity. Which means you can set a particular watch face during working hours to keep your focus on important tasks. You can even set it up to help you meditate or workout. Set it up once, and all you’ll have to do is switch between watch faces.
Accompanying these new faces in the Apple watchOS 9 are new Workout and Medications apps, along with even more personalisation features. “We’re always going to introduce new features that we think can benefit people in different ways—especially when it comes to staying active, healthy and connected,” says Deidre Caldbeck, product marketing director at Apple.
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Anyone who owns an Apple watch will probably tell you how its health and fitness features are something they never knew they needed. From tracking workouts and heart rates and mindfulness reminders, it’s helped the everyday person keep up to date with their health and fitness goals. With watchOS 9, you can now get valuable insights on your sleep patterns—it’ll provide you with data on how much time is spent in REM, Core or Deep sleep, as well as instances of when you might’ve woken up. “Sleep stages were something that we thought would bring a lot of value from a health perspective,” says Caldbeck.
The Apple Watch will also be able to check for atrial fibrillation—irregular and abnormally fast heart rates. “We wanted to help users diagnosed with atrial fibrillation to help them manage their conditions better, and give them deeper insight into their condition,” she expands. While the watch itself can’t diagnose you with atrial fibrillation, it can provide you with data to discuss with your doctor.
The new Medications app will help you discreetly and conveniently keep track of your medications, vitamins and supplements. You’ll be able to log them from reminders at the tap of a button. Furthermore, it’ll warn you against critical drug interactions for your safety and well-being.
On the fitness front, there are features beneficial to professional athletes that regular folks, like us, can take advantage of. “While I’m not planning to do a triathlon anytime soon, I do appreciate having the ability to use features like intervals and Heart Rate Zones in a simple, easy-to-understand manner,” Caldbeck shares. Heart Rate zones help you quickly get a sense of your workout intensity level. And Training zones are automatically calculated and personalised using your health data—you can manually create if you wish.
For more on the Apple Watch and watchOS 9, visit the Apple website.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.