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Apple debuts watchOS 8 and new health features at WWDC 2021

·Technology Editor
·3 min read
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Apple (AAPL) is bringing updates to the software that powers the Apple Watch. Announced at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2021, watchOS 8 brings a number of changes to the world's best-selling wearable, including the ability to track your respiratory rate and new workouts.

Apple previously announced sleep tracking capabilities for the Apple Watch, but this year, it's adding the ability to track your respiratory rate while sleeping as well. This is something that a number of wearable makers have been working on, and promises to provide better insights into the quality of sleep.

While Apple didn't say it specifically, changes to your respiratory rate while sleeping can indicate a variety of potential issues including sleep apnea. In the event that your watch does find meaningful changes, it will provide you with a notification, so you'll be able to address the issue with your doctor.

Beyond checking your respiratory rate, the watchOS 8 also provides updates for watch faces and exercises like Tai Chi.

Credit: Apple
Apple's watchOS 8 brings a number of changes to the world's best-selling wearable. Credit: Apple

With Messages on your Apple Watch, meanwhile, you'll now be able to dictate, scribble and add emojis in the same view on your wrist, making it easier to chat with friends and family. And, of course, Apple has added the ability to reply via gifs to the watch.

Apple has also added a host of updates to its Health app including a new feature called Walking Steadiness. Your iPhone already measures things about how you walk including stride and when both feet are on the ground. Now, the company has taken that data to help create the walking steadiness metric that can tell you if you're at an increased risk of falling. The Health app will also provide exercises that can help improve your balance to reduce your risk of taking a tumble.

A new Trends page in the Health app will also provide you with changes to things like your steps taken and other information to give you better insight into potential health issues.

Importantly, the Health app will now allow you to share your data from your Apple devices directly with your health care provider to let them see things like your heart health, exercise history, and more. This could prove incredibly helpful for people who frequently forget to tell their doctors about their ailments that might slip their minds during their appointments.

Apple also announced Health Sharing, which lets you share your health trends and alerts with family members to see things like their heart rate, activity, and lab results. This will allow you to follow your loved ones' health from a single screen, so you don't have to badger them every time you talk to them. And Apple promises that Apple will never be able to see the information thanks to encryption when you are at rest and in transit.

Read more from WWDC

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