Apple WatchOS 6: What to Expect With This Week's Launch

Bree Fowler

Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.

Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.

Apple is rolling out a new version of its smartwatch operating system this week, timed with the release of the new Apple Watch and new iPhones.

WatchOS 6 is will come installed on the new Apple Watch Series 5. Apple says the new operating system is also compatible with all previous versions of the Watch, though some features won't work on certain older models.

The new operating system isn’t a huge departure from the WatchOS 5.

In addition to a new look that includes a handful of fresh faces designed with fun and productivity in mind, it gives you direct access to the app store, so you can do more without your iPhone.

Also, Siri has been designed to do more, and Apple has double downed on health and activity tracking, giving you better long-term insight.

Before you get all excited and start downloading, here are some tips for making the process quick and easy:

• You’ll receive a notification when the update is ready. Once that happens, Apple recommends that you set the Watch to update overnight, because it can take some time.

• If you want to check for an update manually, open the Apple Watch app on your phone, then tap “My Watch.” Then go to General > Software Update. Download the update. If your phone or watch asks for your passcode, enter it. When the update is complete your watch will restart on its own.

• When you do update the operating system, make sure your watch is on its charger and that its battery is at 50 percent or more. Updating can take a lot of power. Make sure your iPhone is charging and in range, too. 

What's New in WatchOS 6

New faces. Apple is rolling out a bunch of new watch faces designed to add a flash of style and make it easier to access the data you need. A greater number of what Apple calls “complications,” basically glimpses at different watch apps, can be viewed on watch faces, letting you do more without pulling out your phone.

More Siri. The song-identifying app Shazam is now integrated in the watch version of Siri. So if you hear a new song you like, you can just raise your wrist and ask what it is. You’ll also be able to ask Siri to search the web for a topic, then scroll through the top results on your watch face.

New App Store. Apple is bringing its App Store directly to your watch. You’ll be able to search for—and read up on—thousands of apps before directly downloading them to your watch, all without having to pick up your phone. And speaking of apps, iOS 13 includes a watch version of the iPhone calculator app. There are new Animoji stickers for its messaging app, too.

More health tracking. Changes to the watch’s activity tracking app (the one with the tricolored rings) are designed to give people a better look at fitness trends over the long term. And Apple is adding cycle and fertility tracking for women. There’s also a new Hearing Health feature that warns you if you’re being exposed to sounds that have crossed a healthy decibel level.  

More from Consumer Reports:
Top pick tires for 2016
Best used cars for $25,000 and less
7 best mattresses for couples

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2019, Consumer Reports, Inc.