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Apple unveils watchOS 6 for Apple Watch focused on health apps

JP Mangalindan
Chief Tech Correspondent

Apple (AAPL) unveiled watchOS 6 on Monday, which introduces several new enhancements to the smart watch’s operating system.

The Cupertino, California-based tech giant announced watchOS 6 on Monday at its annual worldwide developers conference in San Jose, California. Included in the operating system upgrade: an updated Activity app, new health apps for tracking menstrual cycles and noise levels, several new longstanding apps from iOS including Books, and a slew of new watch faces.

“For so many of us, the Apple Watch has become an essential part of our daily life,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook. “Today we’re going to take another leap with watchOS.”

Apple updated its Activity app with new features such as Activity Trends, which compares nine key metrics over the last 90 to 365 days, including how much users walked during a workout and how many flights of stairs they climbed.

Dr. Sumbul Desai, Apple’s VP of Health, introduced two new apps for watchOS, including a Noise app that notifies users if the noise around them reaches dangerous levels that could damage their hearing, as well a “Cycle Tracking” app for tracking menstrual cycles.

Dr. Sumbul Desai, Apple's VP of Health, at WWDC on Monday in San Jose, California. Source: Apple

WatchOS 6 also gained several apps that have long since been available for iOS, including a new Books app focused on audiobooks, a Voice Memos app for recording audio or “recording your thoughts,” and the Calculator app.

Apple also introduced a number of new watch faces, such as “California,” “Gradient,” and “X-Large.” Meanwhile, a feature called “taptic chimes” lets users experience vibrating alerts on the hour and audible chimes, like bird songs, if they have the sound on.

Finally, Apple Watch users will finally be able to download apps directly onto their watches with their own App Store. To download Apple Watch apps previously, users had to download them by going to the watchOS App Store inside Apple Watch companion app.

While these new health apps are welcome additions to the Apple Watch, rival Fitbit (FIT) has offered the ability to monitor medications and track menstrual cycles for some time now. Meanwhile, Garmin added a period tracking ability for its smart watches this April, and Samsung smartwatch users have had access to a medications management app for years.

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