You did it! You got your new Apple Watch Series 6. Now you need to make sure you’re taking advantage of all the new features watchOS 7 has to offer, like sleep tracking, handwashing reminders, and blood oxygen measurements. Of course you don’t need the Series 6 or the new Watch SE to enjoy many of these upgrades. Here’s how to make the most of whichever Apple Watch you have with the latest software version.
How to Update the Apple Watch
Before you can start tinkering with all the new features in watchOS 7, you’ll need to check your phone and watch models. WatchOS 7 is only compatible with iOS 14, so you’ll need an iPhone 6S or later. Moreover, watchOS 7 only works on Series 3 watches (the 2017 model) and later. Don’t remember which watch you have? Check that here. This version is preinstalled on the Series 6 and Watch SE.
Updating from the watch itself is simple—go into Settings > General > Software Update and tap to install the software. You can do this from your iPhone with the Watch app too (the instructions are the same). If you own an older model, you may want to back it up manually. There are reports of random reboots and bugs when Series 3 owners upgrade.
Your watch automatically backs up to your iPhone, but you can also expedite the process by unpairing your phone or initiating a backup through iCloud (on your phone, go to Settings > Apple ID > iCloud and make sure Watch is toggled on). The data will be restored during the re-pairing process. Apple’s backups don’t include fitness data, your passcode, saved credit cards for Apple Pay, or playlists, so don’t set your expectations too high.
Sleep Tracking and Handwashing
You can finally use your Apple Watch to track your sleep. Once you enable Sleep Tracking in the Watch app, you can set a schedule, sleep goals, and wake-up alarms, or start a wind-down routine that will lock your phone before you go to bed. You can pick shortcuts to jump-start a soothing wind-down routine, whether that’s a few minutes of gentle yoga, a meditation, or a journaling reminder.
Sleep tracking is fairly rudimentary. It tracks your time in bed versus time spent asleep, not your sleep stages. It also won’t track your sleep if you don’t have a schedule set, so you’ll have to use the Health app, which is still more of a spreadsheet than a usable app. The watch can track sleep only when it has more than 30 percent battery life, so you may be prompted to give it a quick top-up before bed.
Handwashing is another new feature in watchOS 7. Toggle on Handwashing Timer in the Watch app, as well as Handwashing Reminders (you’ll need to turn on Location Services). Now you’ll get a reminder to wash your hands when you come back home. Once you’ve started washing your hands, a bubbly countdown timer pops up after a few seconds. I found these reminders to be very useful. The timer only pops up after a few seconds, which means you don’t keep getting annoying dings if you’re just rinsing your hands while cooking.