watchOS 8 Beta — Apple Watch Upgrade!

Photo Face. Photo Grid. Photo Share. Smarter Home. Status screen. Home Key. Car Key. Office Key. Hotel Key. All your IDs. Eventually. Super scribble. Editing schemes. Easy JIF GIF memes. Focus. Mindfulness. Respiratory rate. Health Trends. Tai Chi and Pilates bends. More always on. Better Contacts. Amazing Assistive Touch. And yes, Multiple timers. And more! It’s the watchOS 8 Public Beta. It supports every Apple Watch going back to the Series 3 and SE. You can install it now, but beta means beta, especially on the watch, so think twice, and then strap yourself in. Get it? (Sorry…!)

Portrait Watch Face

Always on, which makes the watch work… as a watch, now works well beyond the watch. On all sorts of apps, including third-party apps!

Some years, Apple has a bevy of new Watch faces for us. This year, they’re focusing on one main one — the Portraits Watch Face. It uses the depthy data from portrait mode photos shot on your iPhone to layer the time in between the subject and the background. It’s a cool effect, and given the popularity of the OG photo face, something a lot of people will love… to showcase their loves… significant other, child, maybe… pet?

I’m still waiting for a Photo variant of the Infographic face though. Basically, something I can customize the hell out of, so I can make my own Superman watch, or whatever, without giving up on all the complications I need. And yes, I will be asking for this every year until I get it. Because that’s what works.


There’s a new Photos app on the Watch. In addition to the traditional synced photos, you can also see memories and featured photos. Memories are even shown off in a new mosaic grid.

And if any of them catch your eye… or heart… you can easily share them over Messages or Email. Which is something I’ve ended up doing every damn day on the iPhone. So, I’m super happy to have it right on the Watch now as well.


Pilates is making it’s way into Apple Watch workouts this year… and so is Tai Chi. And Apple seems to be doing this right, because the workout is fine for my mom doing her Yangjia Taijiquan movements, all slow and steady, but also for me getting my much more ballistic Chenjia on. Well done!


There’s a new, hybrid message composition board on the Watch that lets you switch between Scribble, dictation, and emoji. You can even edit dictations now by using the Digital Crown to move the cursor point. Yes, the Apple Watch got editing before ducking Twitter.

There’s a new Contacts app, so it’’s easier to browse, add to, even edit your connections right on your Watch. And yes please, because every step towards a fully independent Watch is a good one.

And you can also add the ultimate in high density inter-human communications, the final form of hieroglyphics and pictographic — JIF/GIFs and memes. Just enter a hashtag image and select from whatever’s trending.

Tim smiling at M1 iPad do jif gif

Actually, the G is silent…


The new Mindfulness app on the Apple Watch doesn’t so much replace the previous Breathing app as it does… next level it.

The breathing part is more holistic now, bringing the mind and body together through Focus, which works the coolness and heat of your respiration in attentive cycle. Center, where you ground yourself through your belly, or Dan Tien in Taiji and Qigong parlance. And connect, where you concentrate on your chest and heart as you inhale and exhale.

And if you’re worried about forgetting anything while you’re breathing, you can now set multiple timers to remind you. Yes, the Apple Watch also got to multiple timers before the iPhone. Be mindful of that for next year, iOS!

Then there’s Reflect, which is… next next level. It’s more meditation meets positive affirmation meets… self discovery. You’re presented with a short, random concept for reflection and an animation to help you visualize at the same time.

It doesn’t just give you options, it gives you a gateway into regulating your feelings, your stress levels, your ability to deal with the world.

You can also quickly and easily set one of the new Focus Modes on your Watch, like Personal or Work, and it’ll propagate to your other devices. So, basically, shields up whenever you want.

I think it’s terrific Apple’s starting to help with mental health as well as physical and I can’t wait to see how far they can take this.


There’s also assistive touch, the mind-blowing, totally sci-fi new accessibility feature, which Apple pre-announced just before watchOS 8, and I covered in a previous video. Link in the description.

Also new in health are trends. That’s for new features like respiratory rate in sleep and walking steadiness — which leans on the iPhone sensors to try and prevent you needing the fall detection of the Apple Watch sensors.

Apple is just applying on-device trend analysis on all the health-related data your Watch and iPhone are collecting, so it can surface important changes, and give you and your doctor the best, most timely information possible.


The Apple Watch is getting Keys and IDs, just like the iPhone. I covered the basics in the iOS 15 beta video, link in the description, but I’m most looking forward to all of them on the Apple Watch. The ability to tap and go — or tap and enter — from your wrist just beats the pants pocket off of having to fish out and handle it on the phone.


Beyond Home keys, there’s also a much improved Home app. Which, we’ve needed for a while. Apple nailed the Dick Tracy years ago, so now it’s all about the Tony Stark.

You get a current status board right at the top, accessories and scenes auto-sorted by relevancy, a dedicated area for any and all cameras, as well as a place for favorite rooms, accessories, and scenes.

You watch will also suggest relevant additional actions when a trigger occurs, even if they’re not part of an existing automation, like if the doorbell rings, unlocking the door and turning on the entrance lights.

Because the Watch display is so small, input so constrained, and interactions so brief, Apple is leaning on machine lifting to so just so much of the heavy lifting here.