Apple may have the best smartwatch around, but there are still some areas where it lags the competition, particularly in exercise and sleep tracking. With watchOS 9, the company is bringing a robust slate of Workout updates, alongside new watch faces, redesigned apps and the ability to detect sleep zones. Now that the public beta is here, we can get a first look at whether the company can close those gaps.
To install the watchOS beta, you’ll need to have an Apple Watch Series 4 or newer, as well as an iPhone running the iOS 16 beta. That means if you don’t want to risk losing your data, you might want to wait until an official release before updating.
Hearty changes in Workouts
Some of the most impactful updates are in workouts. Apple added pages that present more data when you’re logging an activity, so you can easily keep track of things like your segments and splits or elevations. Of these new screens, my favorite is the Cardio Zones view, while I found the Activity Rings page the least helpful.
It was satisfying to see where my heart rate was during a 45-minute HIIT session, and the Apple Watch displayed that information clearly. There were five zones in different colors on screen, and the one I was in was highlighted. Afterwards, I learned through the Fitness app’s new summary page that I had spent most of the time (about 22 minutes) in Zone 4, and Apple also helpfully displays the heart rate range for each zone.
The Cardio view is supposed to be available for all workouts, but I didn’t see it in activities like Yoga, Dance or Cooldown. They do all support the new custom workout feature, though, which lets you create specific goals to focus on during your session. This is much more useful in distance or endurance-related activities like running, cycling, rowing or HIIT, where Apple offers suggested templates like 8 x 400m repeats, 1 mile repeats or 20 min of 20 sec / 10 sec. You’ll get haptic and audio alerts when you hit your target heart rate, distance, calories or time.
You can scroll all the way down to set up your own, but this experience is pretty inconsistent across different workout types. For some activities, you’ll have plenty of options like Pacer, Distance, Calories or Time. For others, like Open Water Swim or Rower, you’ll only see Calories and Time, along with a Custom option that lets you set specific periods of work and recovery.
Not every activity is going to be compatible with distance or pace, so this inconsistency is understandable. Just don’t expect the custom workouts feature to behave the same way for all your exercises.
Runners will find a lot of the watchOS 9 tools helpful, though. Apple also added new running form metrics like stride length, ground contact time, vertical oscillation and something it calls Power. That last one measures your responsive energy demand and is displayed as a number of watts. These new metrics are automatically calculated, and are only available during Outdoor Run workouts. You’ll need to be using an Apple Watch Series 6, Watch SE or newer, too.
If you tend to run or bike along the same routes, watchOS 9 can also let you race against yourself in the new Race Route feature. When you complete Outdoor Run, Outdoor Cycle or Wheelchair Run Pace workouts, your iPhone will use on-device processing to group similar routes. The next time you start one of these activities, the Route view will tell you if you’re ahead or behind your typical time, how much distance is left and alert you if you go off your usual path. Apple also added a new Pacer mode that lets you set a target time to complete a distance you specify, and will then guide you to hit the required pace to meet that goal. Garmin and Samsung watches have similar features, so Apple isn’t breaking new ground here, but it’s nice to see come to watchOS.
I don’t usually bike, swim and run within one session, but for triathletes, the new Multisport workout mode makes it easier to switch between the three activities so you don’t have to fiddle with your watch. Apple also added support for Kickboard as a stroke type, and swimmers can see a SWOLF efficiency score on their summaries.
New watch faces and interface
One of the nicer things about each watchOS update is the new faces, which offer a way to refresh your device. This time, Apple not only added the ability to change the background color of existing options like Modular and X-Large, it’s also introducing new Playtime, Metropolitan and Lunar designs. The company redesigned the Astronomy screen, too, and it’s similar to the iPhone version where you can choose between views of the earth, moon or the solar system. Meanwhile, Lunar lets you pick from the Chinese, Hebrew or Islamic calendars to display around the clock.
I never knew how much I’d appreciate having the Chinese Lunar calendar within reach until I added this face. It has Mandarin characters telling me it’s currently the fifteenth day of the sixth month, and I can use this to count how far we are from the next Lunar New Year or my grandmother’s birthday (which my family bases on the Chinese calendar).
Apple also redesigned the calendar app, making it easier to add new events from your wrist. Siri also no longer takes over your whole screen when triggered, instead appearing as an orb floating over the clock.
Because I had set up Medications on my iPhone on the iOS 16 preview, I also received an alert on watchOS 9 when it came time to take my supplement. I could easily log that I had taken my meds, skipped them or snooze the reminder.
Sleep zones and other updates
Speaking of snoozing, Apple also added sleep stage-detection to watchOS 9, using data from the accelerometer and heart rate monitor. It’ll detect when you’re awake, and distinguish between zones like REM, Core or Deep sleep. This feature is way overdue, considering Fitbit has long been able to do this with even its midrange trackers. But while I didn’t get around to testing Apple’s system in time for this preview, I look forward to seeing how it compares when I do a full review.
There are some other updates I’d like to spend more time with, too, like the additional metrics when doing a Fitness+ workout. So far, my experience with the watchOS 9 beta has been smooth, and honestly the cardio zones workout view alone has made the installation worthwhile (for a gym fiend like me, anyway). If you’re comfortable with the risk involved in running beta software, and can’t wait till a stable release to get these new features, you’ll likely enjoy what Apple has to offer today.
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The grind simply doesn’t stop for NY Giants outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari. The second-year playmaker is looking to make an even bigger splash than he did last season. In 2021, Ojulari was one of the few exciting parts for the G-Men, as he set the new rookie sacks record for the organization with his eight takedowns.
Now, Ojulari is once again expected to ball out, this time with No. 5 overall pick Kayvon Thibodeaux also out on the field with him. While the Giants won’t report for training camp until later this month, Ojulari is clearly doing everything possible to stay in his best shape. A new workout clip of his has made its way to social media, and he’s moving iron around with ease and passion.
Those aren’t 10-pound dumbbells Ojulari is tossing into the sky either. Nope, those are each 120 pounds, with the Giants pass-rusher showing Hulk-like strength in the video above. Ojulari looked quite different when he arrived to the team facility this spring, as he revealed he had put on about 10 pounds of muscle.
He looks sensational and now he’ll be getting to camp on July 27 looking even better. This is of course great to see for the Giants and head coach Brian Daboll. While the players still have a few more weeks to relax and enjoy their time away from the field, there are no days off for Ojulari. His work ethic is something that should also stand out to general manager Joe Schoen.
Much of the hype for the Giants defense in the past few months has of course gone to Thibodeaux. He’s an exciting young player and things went into overdrive once the first-round revealed how many sacks he wants to record this upcoming campaign. Thibodeaux will be a special player, no doubt about it.
With that said, it’s going to take some time for him to adjust to the speed of the NFL once the regular season arrives. Ojulari will be there to help him every step of the way. On top of that, he’ll also make plenty of noise himself, as he flies into the backfield to bring down opposing quarterbacks. Ojulari means business and his impressive workouts should send a strong message to the rest of the NFC, especially QBs Carson Wentz, Jalen Hurts and Dak Prescott.