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WatchOS 8 is coming soon. Here's every Apple Watch upgrade to expect

The WatchOS 8 upgrade comes to Apple Watch later this year, but we've got the scoop on what new features to expect.

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WatchOS 8
Apple/Screenshot by Russell Holly/CNET
This story is part of Apple Event, our full coverage of the latest news from Apple headquarters.

Ready for some new features for your Apple Watch? WatchOS 8 played a big part at Apple's WWDC 2021 event. The globally popular Apple Watch platform is going to see some interesting changes in its next software update, which you'll be able to check out soon. Developers will get access to a beta first and the general public can download the upgrade later this year, likely in the fall.

Read more: Apple Watch SE vs. Series 6 vs. Series 3: How to choose?

The Breathe app is getting an update, from a new animation to help you focus to a "reflect" mode that prompts you to think about something specific and improve mindfulness. Reflect will be available as a separate app so you can use it as much as you want. 

WatchOS 8
Apple/Screenshot by Russell Holly/CNET

Sleep-tracking fans will find a new respiratory rate will track how many breaths you take in a minute, and take a look at trends over time to see what you need to improve. The more you use this feature, the more likely Apple Health is to show you more information in your sleep trends, which could lead to preventing any possible future problems.

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Apple/Screenshot by Russell Holly/CNET

Fitness workouts will now include tai chi and Pilates workout modes, so you can more accurately track those activities. Like all other workouts, you select the option and keep going until you've finished a workout. All activity during that workout is then shared with Apple Health.

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Popular fitness instructor Jeanette Jenkins is being added to Apple Fitness Plus, with seven new workouts for every body type. A new Artist Spotlight series will be added to focus on musicians to keep you moving. Expect these to be available on Apple Fitness Plus next month. 

WatchOS 8
Apple/Screenshot by Russell Holly/CNET

The new Portraits watch face gives the popular photos watch face a greater focus on a person, and offers depth with animations when you rotate your watch crown. In addition to this, Apple Photos on the watch has been improved to give you more options and more easily find the photos you're looking for from your wrist. 

Messaging from Apple Watch has also been improved, including teeny tiny gif replies to browse through and improved voice responses. You'll also be able to send photos from the updated photos app in two taps, just like you would from your phone. 

WatchOS 8 Walking Steadiness
Apple/Screenshot by Russell Holly/CNET

Apple Health is also using your step-tracking data to help evaluate what it calls "walking steadiness." This measurement takes a look at your gait and balance, and shows you how to keep an eye on your overall step health in a single measurement. 

The Apple Health app will give you a score based on available data, and make recommendations to improve your steadiness when walking. This feature isn't limited to the Apple Watch, but if you wear one already you'll be able to send additional information to this measurement. 

Apple Glucose
Apple/Screenshot by Russell Holly/CNET

One thing heavily rumored to be a part of WatchOS 8 is glucose monitoring, which would exist alongside a new glucose sensor on a new Apple Watch. While the words were never said out loud, "Blood Glucose highlights" was briefly seen in this slide during the event, so it's possible we'll hear more about this feature once the next Apple Watch is ready to be released. 

The Apple Watch has come a long way from its original launch in 2015, when it was initially touted as a luxury item complete with a $10,000 gold variant called the Apple Watch Edition. But over the last few years, Apple has touted the Watch as a health device, tracking wearers' steps and activity. Apple's added health-related features such as an ECG heart monitor, sync technology for gym equipment and a meditation app.

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