Preview of Apple WatchOS 9

Apple may have the best Smartwatch, but there are still a few areas where it lags behind the competition, especially in training and sleep tracking. With watchOS 9, the company is bringing a number of robust training updates, in addition to new dials, redesigned apps and the ability to detect sleep zones. Now that the public beta is here, we can take a first look to see if the company can fill these gaps.

To install the watchOS beta, you must have an Apple Watch Series 4 or after, as well as an iPhone with the iOS 16 beta. This means that if you don’t want to risk losing your data, you should wait for an official version before updating.

Hearty changes in Training
Some of the most effective updates can be found in workouts. Apple has added pages that show more data when logging an activity, making it easy for you to track your segments, divisions, or heights, for example. Of these new screens, my favorite is the view of the Cardio zone, while I found the activity rings page the least useful.

It was satisfying to see where my heart rate was during a 45-minute HIIT session, and the Apple Watch clearly displayed this information. There were five different colored areas on the screen, and the one I was in was highlighted. After that, I learned via the new overview page of the Fitness app that I spent most of my time (about 22 minutes) in Zone 4, and Apple also displays the heart rate range for each Zone.

The Cardio view is supposed to be available for all workouts, but I haven’t seen it on activities such as Yoga, dancing, or cooldown. However, they all support the new custom workout feature, which allows you to create specific goals that you can focus on throughout your session. This is much more useful in distance or endurance-related activities such as running, cycling, rowing or HIIT, where Apple offers suggested patterns such as 8 x 400 m reps, 1 mile reps or 20 minutes of 20 seconds/10 Seconds. You will receive haptic and audible alerts when you have reached your target heart rate, distance, calories or time.

You can scroll down to set up your own, but this experience is quite inconsistent with different types of training. For some activities, you have a lot of options such as pacemaker, distance, calories or time. For others, such as open water swimming or rowing, you will only see calories and time, as well as a custom Option that allows you to set specific work and recovery times.

Not all activities will be compatible with distance or pace, so this inconsistency is understandable. Don’t expect the custom workout feature to behave the same for all your exercises. However, runners will find a lot of watchOS 9 tools useful. Apple has also added new running form measurements such as step length, ground contact time, vertical oscillation and what it calls power. The latter measures your energy needs and is displayed in the form of power. These new measurements are calculated automatically and are only available for outdoor running workouts. You must also be using an Apple Watch Series 6, Watch SE, or after.

If you tend to run or cycle on the same roads, watchOS 9 also allows you to action in the new race road feature. When you perform workouts outdoors, on an outdoor bike or in a wheelchair, your iPhone uses the processing on The device to group similar routes. The next time you start one of these activities, the route view will tell you if you are ahead or behind your typical time, how much distance you have left and notify you if you leave your usual path. Apple has also added a new pacemaker mode that allows you to set a target time to cover a distance you specify, and then guide you to the pace required to achieve that goal. Garmin and Samsung watches have similar features, so Apple is not taking new paths here, but it’s nice to see watchOS coming.

Normally I don’t drive, swim and run in one session, but for triathletes, the new multi-sport training mode makes it easy to switch between the three activities so you don’t have to fiddle with your watch.