June 9 update below: This post was first published on June 6, 2021 when WWDC was just hours away.
The big announcements were scheduled to land at 10AM Pacific on Monday. But it looks like Apple had been a little too keen and revealed some things already.
June 9 update. More features are being revealed all the time, but here’s a cool one dealing with what we’re discussing here, iOS 15 and watchOS 8.
Apple introduced a super-cool feature to unlock your iPhone with Apple Watch back in iOS 14.5. Well, in the software to be released this Fall, as spotted by 9to5Mac, this is being expanded to enable personal requests to Siri, so long as the option is turned on.
It means that if you’re using an iPhone with Face ID and you’re wearing a mask, you can ask Siri to read your messages, for instance, which just wasn’t possible before. The purpose of unlocking with Apple Watch was just for unlocking the screen.
This is a significantly more convenient option, meaning that you can ask Siri to do more stuff, such as changing an iPhone setting, for instance, without having to unmask or enter your password.
Apple describes it like this: “Use the secure connection to your Apple Watch for Siri requests or to unlock your iPhone when an obstruction, like a mask, prevents Face ID from recognizing your Face. Your watch must be passcode protected, unlocked, and on your wrist close by.”
This is typical Apple: to introduce a feature for a very particular reason—in this case to make mask-wearing that little bit less inconvenient in a pandemic—and then expand the purpose and capabilities to add extra value.
June 8 update. Well, the dust has settled and much more is known about the mystery leaked app and Apple’s plans for the iPhone and Apple Watch in general.
First of all, Gurman was not completely right (see below), though, as while he predicted the Breathe app has been updated, complete with a fetching new animation on the Watch, there was another element and an all-new app. The new feature is called Reflect which Apple describes as, “a new way for you to be more mindful. For example, a reflection could be ‘Think about something you love to do and why it brings you joy.’ ” This new feature, along with Breathe, sits in the new app called Mindfulness. Breathe is a real hidden treasure on Apple Watch, so I hope it’ll get a lot more exposure in its upgraded app.
As for Contacts on Apple Watch, that was duly announced, too. As Apple said: “watchOS 8 also brings the Contacts app to Apple Watch, providing a simple way for users to browse, add, and edit contacts, and share contacts directly from the app.”
There doesn’t yet seem to be evidence of a standalone Tips app, though Mindfulness promises to have tips on how to use it best.
Of course, these were far from the only updates to watchOS 8. This Fall, sleep tracking on Apple Watch will add “Respiratory Rate. This is a vital sign that measures how many breaths you take per minute. And since your sleeping respiratory rate tends to be consistent over time, a change may indicate a shift in your overall wellness. You’ll be notified if a meaningful trend in your respiratory rate has been identified. And you can see even more details in Respiratory Rate in the Health app.”
Other useful Watch updates coming in watchOS 8 will include multiple named timers on the Watch, more apps supporting the always-on display, including Maps and Podcasts, a new Portraits Watch face which looks really cool and two new workouts, Tai Chi and Pilates.
I’ll be taking a deep dive into watchOS 8 shortly, so please check back.
Back to those early revelations…
An entry called com.apple.Mind has appeared and reveals that a new app, almost certainly called Mind, is in the pipeline. This will likely be revealed on Monday at WWDC.
The naming convention indicates that it will be available across iOS and watchOS rather than limited to one platform only.
Apple has been rumored to be working on mental health features for some time, in addition to the excellent, calming Breathe app currently found on Apple Watch.
This new element didn’t at first look as though it was that as, according to Tian, that’s com.apple.DeepBreathing. By the way, the same Twitter chain claims that com.apple.tincan is the codename for the WalkieTalkie app, which is pretty cool.
However, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has tweeted what he thinks the new app will be and his word is “New version of the Breathe app”.
If you haven’t tried it, Breathe is a cool little app which encourages you to focus on your breathing for 60 seconds. That’s it. I find that using it will invariably leave me calmer than before.
So an updated version could be cool, if Gurman is right. In a recent announcement about accessibility features, Apple said it was introducing Background Sounds like balanced, bright or dark noise, along with ocean, rain and stream sounds “to help minimize distractions and help users focus, stay calm or rest,” Apple said, in a post introducing the features.
Well, that could amplify the capabilities of a new Breathe app interestingly. And, since the identifier hints it could be for the iPhone as well, it suggests that there could be new features which don’t require Apple Watch’s capability to measure your heart rate.
Other identifiers found in the App Store manifest included com.apple.NanoContacts and com.apple.NanoTips and since Nano is used to refer to Apple Watch apps, it looks like a standalone Contacts app may be about to land on Apple Watch, plus a Tips app similar to the one on iPhone and iPad. Contacts on Apple Watch would be one more way to give the Apple Watch that little bit more independence from the iPhone.
All will be revealed, it seems, in just a matter of hours.