Apple's watchOS 5 Adds Automatic Workout Detection, Walkie-Talkie, and More

At WWDC this morning, Apple previewed watchOS 5, the newest version of the Apple Watch operating system. The update adds a number of new fitness and communications features that Apple says will help Watch owners "stay healthy and connected."

Auto-workout detection is a major quality of life improvement for those who use their Apple Watch devices for fitness. In watchOS 4 and prior versions, users needed to manually begin a workout in the Workout app — and failing to do so meant missing out on tracking and other data related to their workout. watchOS 5 will use heart rate and movement data to determine if the user might be working out, and pop up an alert to the user to start the workout and even give retroactive credit to the start of the workout. It will also prompt users to end workout sessions if the user forgets to turn the app off.

Also new is an "activity competition" mode, that will allow fitness-focused friends to challenge each other to seven-day competitions, with users getting points for closing activity rings over the course of a week. Smack talk and achievements are, naturally, tightly integrated.

Yoga and hiking have been added to the types of workouts supported, taking into account elevation change and heart rate to accurate measure calories burned and total exercise minutes.

Runners have received a number of new features that will help keep them on track. A cadence or steps-per-minute metric that works on both indoor and outdoor runs has been added, and outdoor runners gain a new pace alarm that alerts if they are ahead of or behind a target pace. Finally, a rolling mile pace shows the pace for the immediately preceding mile, on top of the current and average pace displays.

A new Walkie-Talkie app lets users send push-to-talk messages (like an old-school Nextel phone) to each other from watch-to-watch, and a new Podcasts app has been added as well. That will allow subscribed podcasts to automatically sync to the device for offline listening, and music and audiobooks from apps like Pandora and Audible will sync to the Apple Watch for offline playback as well.

The Siri watch face has been updated with better shortcuts and suggestions, including sports scores or commute time ahead of your drive home. And actions for supported third-party apps will show up as well.

Finally, the Apple Watch will support on-device Student ID cards, allowing students access to buildings, to pay for food and laundry on campus, and more. It's supported by a number of major universities at launch including Duke, the University of Alabama, and the University of Oklahoma this fall, with others — including Johns Hopkins and Temple University — offering support by the end of the year.

Apple also released a new rainbow-colored Pride watch band and watch face, which is available today.

watchOS 5 is expected to be released later this fall.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 6
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
24 months ago
Still no custom watch faces, that's pretty sad Apple, pretty sad.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
24 months ago

Still no custom watch faces, that's pretty sad Apple, pretty sad.

I am SOOOO Annoyed with Apple. I LOVE my Apple Watch, but the watch faces need a major refresh and not Buzz Lightyear. I want them to make creative watch face that professionals will love to have on their wrist. It is not a Childs toy. Please apple, help those of us out who love it as a watch first and everything else after.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
24 months ago
I love how Apple keeps improving Activity and Workout. I find Apple Watch to be the best fitness-companion already and they just keep on improving it.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
24 months ago
I forgot about the automatic workout detection stuff. That to me is one of the best new features. There are so many times that I'll be a mile into a walk/run before I remember to start it, or I'll be sitting inside an hour later and realize my Watch is still going and collecting data and I get undeserved achievements for having a long exercise even though I wasn't. The competition stuff is also neat.

Walkie talkie mode is my next favorite feature. Being able to quickly hit up my wife on the weekend while running around doing errands is going to be great. I just hope we have control over when Walkie Talkie mode is active, such as only when I'm not at work, etc.

My wife doesn't yet have an Apple Watch, but perhaps some of these new features will persuade her to let me buy her one this autumn. Her FitBit has been giving her fits (hah) and so this might be the time to lure her over. Her main problem is she hasn't much cared for the look of the Watch.

Too bad there are no custom watch faces yet. Maybe next year…
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
24 months ago
Heck, raising your wrist and just talking to Siri without the need for Hey Siri is going to make this upgrade.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
24 months ago
Article should note from the Apple press release, that Series 0 is not supported.


* watchOS 5 will be available this fall as a free update for Apple Watch Series 1 and later and requires iPhone 5s or later on iOS 12. watchOS 5 will not be available on the original Apple Watch. Features are subject to change. Some features may not be available in all regions.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Apple Acquires Weather App Dark Sky

Tuesday March 31, 2020 10:22 am PDT by Juli Clover
Apple has acquired weather app Dark Sky, Dark Sky's developers announced today. Dark Sky is one of the most popular weather apps on the App Store, known for its accuracy and storm warnings. Our goal has always been to provide the world with the best weather information possible, to help as many people as we can stay dry and safe, and to do so in a way that respects your privacy. There is no ...

Apple's 2020 MacBook Air vs. 2020 iPad Pro

Wednesday April 1, 2020 2:45 pm PDT by Juli Clover
Apple in March updated both the MacBook Air and the iPad Pro, and with the iPad Pro increasingly positioned as a computer replacement, we thought we'd compare both new machines to see how they measure up and which one might be a better buy depending on user needs. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. We're comparing the base model 12.9-inch iPad Pro and the base model...

Zoom Accused of Misleading Users With 'End-to-End Encryption' Claims Amid Other Security Issues [Updated]

Wednesday April 1, 2020 2:47 am PDT by Tim Hardwick
Zoom is facing fresh scrutiny today following a report that the videoconferencing app's encryption claims are misleading. Zoom states on its website and in its security white paper that the app supports end-to-end encryption, a term that refers to a way of protecting user content so that the company has no access to it whatsoever. However, an investigation by The Intercept reveals that...

Case for Upcoming Low-Cost iPhone Shows Up at Best Buy With Alleged April 5 Stock Date

Monday March 30, 2020 4:25 pm PDT by Juli Clover
Apple has a new low-cost iPhone in the works, which is supposed to be launching sometime in the first half of 2020. Given the ongoing situation in the United States and other countries, it's been unclear if the device is going to launch within the planned timeline, but there are signs that it could be coming soon. We started seeing cases for the new low-cost iPhone back in early February,...

Apple Adding Some 2013 and 2014 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro Models to Vintage Products List at End of April

Wednesday April 1, 2020 2:24 pm PDT by Joe Rossignol
In an internal memo obtained by MacRumors, Apple has indicated that the following 2013 and 2014 models of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro will be added to its vintage and obsolete products list on April 30:MacBook Air (11-inch, Mid 2013) MacBook Air (13-inch, Mid 2013) MacBook Air (11-inch, Early 2014) MacBook Air (13-inch, Early 2014) MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid 2014)Apple defines vintage...

AirTags Referenced in New Apple Support Video

Thursday April 2, 2020 12:12 pm PDT by Joe Rossignol
Apple has accidentally referenced its widely rumored AirTags item tracking tags in a video that it uploaded to its Apple Support channel on YouTube today. The video was first spotted by the blog Appleosophy and has quickly been removed. The video was titled "How to erase your iPhone." AirTags were mentioned in Settings > Apple ID > Find My > Find My iPhone under Enable Offline Finding, with...

Testing Brydge's New Pro+ Keyboard With Trackpad for iPad Pro

Monday March 30, 2020 2:04 pm PDT by Juli Clover
Well ahead of when Apple introduced trackpad support in iOS 13.4, Brydge announced an iPad Pro keyboard with a built-in multi-touch trackpad. We have one of Brydge's new Pro+ keyboards on hand, and thought we'd check it out to see how it works with Apple's new 2020 iPad Pro models. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. The Brydge Pro+ keyboard is similar in design to...

Intel Unveils 10th-Gen Processors Suitable for Next 16-Inch MacBook Pro With Wi-Fi 6 and Turbo Boost Speeds Above 5GHz

Thursday April 2, 2020 7:53 am PDT by Joe Rossignol
Intel today announced the launch of its latest 10th-generation Core processors for high-end notebooks, potentially including the next 16-inch MacBook Pro. The batch of 45W chips, part of the Comet Lake family, are built on Intel's 14nm++ architecture. The new H-series chips have the same base clock speeds as the 9th-generation chips in the current 16-inch MacBook Pro, but Turbo Boost speeds...

Apple's Work on New Upcoming Products Progressing Normally as Employees Adjust to Telecommuting

Monday March 30, 2020 11:58 am PDT by Juli Clover
Apple's development of upcoming products is progressing as usual despite the fact that Apple employees around the world are working from home, according to a new report today out from Bloomberg. Apple is still working on new versions of the HomePod, Apple TV, MacBook Pro, budget iPads, Apple Watch, iPhone, and iMac, all of which could be released "as early as later this year" and have been...

2020 iPad Pro May Not Have a U1 Ultra Wideband Chip After All

Wednesday April 1, 2020 8:49 pm PDT by Joe Rossignol
While it was previously reported that all 2020 iPad Pro models feature the same Apple-designed U1 chip as the iPhone 11 lineup, enabling Ultra Wideband support, we have compiled evidence to suggest that this may not be the case. As a reminder, Apple's tech specs for the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro list an Ultra Wideband chip for spatial awareness, but the chip is not mentioned in Apple's...