2021 was a fairly muted year for Apple’s wearables, with neither the Apple Watch 7 nor watchOS 8 being massive advances on their predecessors. So this year we’re hoping for bigger things on both the hardware and software front.

We’ve detailed our hopes for the Apple Watch 8 elsewhere, but here we’re focused on watchOS 9 – the software that’s set to grace Apple’s next wearable, and that will be available as an update to many of the company’s older ones too.

Below you’ll find our wish list for this upcoming update, along with information on when we’re likely to see it, and which Apple Watch models will be eligible to get it. We’ll also be adding watchOS 9 news and rumors to this article just as soon as we hear any.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The next big Apple Watch software update
  • When is it out? Probably September
  • How much will it cost? It will be a free update

watchOS 9 release date and compatibility

There’s no news yet on when watchOS 9 will launch, but we can take a very good guess. watchOS 8 was announced in June of 2021 at Apple's WWDC developer conference, then finally hit wrists in September, and Apple tends to follow a regular pattern.

So we’d expect to get our first official look at watchOS 9 during WWDC 2022, which will probably take place in June. Then the finished version will likely launch in or around September, alongside the Apple Watch 8 and the iPhone 14.

There’s no word on which wearables will be updated to watchOS 9 either, but everything from the Apple Watch 3 onwards can get watchOS 8, so we’d assume it will either be the same again, or – perhaps more likely – Apple will drop support for the Apple Watch 3, with only the Apple Watch 4 onwards getting watchOS 9.

Apple Watch Series 7  sleep tracking

An Apple Watch 7 (Image credit: TechRadar)

What we want to see

There are a few things we really want to see from watchOS 9. They are as follows.

1. Better sleep tracking

Sleep tracking is a fairly recent addition to watchOS, and so far, Apple hasn’t done much with it. The feature gives you very little in terms of insight or details, or tips on how to improve your sleep. It also doesn’t make good use of the Sp02 sensor (on models that have this).

We noted in our Apple Watch 7 review that you won’t, for example, get an alert if your blood oxygen drops too much overnight – something which could be extremely useful to know from a health perspective.

So we want Apple to make big advances to all its sleep tools with watchOS 9.

2. Improved workouts

Apple Watch Series 7 images of watch on test

An Apple Watch 7 (Image credit: TechRadar)

Apple does much better with workouts than sleep tracking, but the functionality still feels a bit basic on the software side.

Take your Apple Watch out running for example and you won’t get things like heart rate alerts or interval sessions.

Without these basic features, the Apple Watch can often feel like a more casual fitness companion than something suited to more serious athletes, and that’s a shame, so we want workouts to be improved with watchOS 9 as well.

3. More responsive Siri

One issue our reviewer found when using the Apple Watch 7 was that Siri would only respond around 80% of the time when raising their wrist and speaking to it, and that’s just not quite good enough to make it a reliable way of interacting with the wearable.

It’s not entirely clear whether this is a hardware or software issue, but we’d think Apple could make it more responsive with changes to the software, and we hope this happens.

4. Third-party faces

While there are dedicated apps such as Facer that allow you to stick third-party faces on your Apple Watch, it’s not something the company makes easy.

With watchOS 9 we’d like to see full support added for third-party faces, so that lots of creators jump on board, and finding and accessing these faces is as easy as for Apple’s own ones.

5. Support for the Apple Watch 3

It’s likely that Apple will cut off support to the Apple Watch 3 with this new software update, but we hope that it doesn’t. The longer devices get updates for, the longer they feel fresh and viable to use, so we like to see long-lasting support.

Apple is actually pretty good on this front, but it can always do better, and with Samsung now promising four years of updates for its wearables, we want to see Apple offer at least five.

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