Developer Apple Inc.
Written in
OS family
Working state Current
Source model Closed (with open-source components)
Initial release April 24, 2015 (2015-04-24)
Latest release 5.0.1[1] (16R381 | 16R382)[2] (September 27, 2018 (2018-09-27)) [±]
Latest preview 5.1 beta 3[3] (16R5577c)[4] (October 9, 2018 (2018-10-09)) [±]
Marketing target Smartwatch
Update method FOTA (via iPhone 5+ running iOS 8.2+)
License Proprietary software except for open-source components
Official website
Support status

watchOS is the mobile operating system of the Apple Watch, developed by Apple Inc. It is based on the iOS operating system and has many similar features.[5] It was released on April 24, 2015, along with the Apple Watch, the only device that runs watchOS. Its API is called WatchKit.

The second version, watchOS 2, included support for native third-party apps and other improvements, and was released on September 21, 2015.[6][7][8] The third version, watchOS 3, was released on September 13, 2016, emphasizing better performance and including new watch faces and stock apps. The fourth version, watchOS 4, was released on September 19, 2017. The fifth version, watchOS 5, was released on September 17, 2018,[9] adding more third-party support and new workouts, along with the “Walkie-Talkie” feature.[10]

Interface overview

The home screen (rendered by and also known as "Carousel")[5] is composed of circular application icons, which can be zoomed in and out with the Digital Crown and dragged and launched by touching the display. Many of the apps are miniaturized, simplified versions of their iOS counterparts.

Prior to watchOS 3, Glances provided fast access to a summarized view of the most popular native or third party applications used on Apple Watch.[11] The Glances view was opened with a swipe up gesture from the watch face screen. With watchOS 3, Glances has been replaced by a redesigned Control Center - much like the one in iOS. The friends menu, invoked with the side button, now acts as a dedicated dock for apps.

Different actions and options appear depending on if the user taps or deep presses which an Apple Watch detects with its pressure-sensitive (Force Touch) Display.[12]


For several years now, Apple has been developing its HealthKit product in a bid to change the way people interact with their devices. There is also a conscious attempt to penetrate the lucrative healthcare and wellness industry, which many observers believe to hold huge growth opportunity for Apple.[13] This was confirmed by Jony Ive, Apple's chief designer, in an interview. He said that health was a crucial element in the Apple Watch since the day of its inception and that the developmental trajectory of the hardware and the WatchOS were geared towards health-based capabilities.[14] Ive pointed out that that one of the primary apps that shipped with the first WatchOS allowed users to track and communicate as well as encourage them to move, exercise, and stand. He said:

Many of us have our phones with us all the time, but they aren’t connected to you. Imagine having something this powerful with you at all times, and what opportunities that might present to the user. The opportunity is phenomenal. Particularly when [you] don’t understand just where we are today in terms of technology and capability, but where we are headed.[15]

One of the most recent updates to the watchOS included applications that do not only keep users active but also diagnose illnesses. For example, there is the app called DeepHeart, a deep learning network that can detect atrial fibrillation, hypertension, sleep apnea, and diabetes.[16] It taps the HealthKit platform to collect data, particularly those collected by the Apple Watch's heart sensor.

Version history

Legend:   Obsolete   Discontinued   Current   Beta

watchOS 1.x

watchOS 2.x

watchOS 3.x

watchOS 4.x

Table of versions: watchOS 4.x - Apple Watch
watchOS version iOS version based on Build Release date Features


11.0 15R372 September 19, 2017
  • Initial Release on Apple Watch Series 3 (Dual-Core)


11.0 15R654 October 4, 2017 Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular) only


11.1 15R846 October 31, 2017


11.2 15S102 December 5, 2017


11.2 15S542 January 23, 2018
  • This update includes improvements and bug fixes.


11.2 15S600b February 19, 2018
  • Fixes an issue where using certain character sequences could cause apps to crash.


11.3 15T212 March 29, 2018


11.4 15T567 May 29, 2018
  • Fixes an issue which caused Apple Watch to sometimes remain at the Apple Logo during startup for some users.


11.4.1 15U70 July 9, 2018 Final release supported on Apple Watch (1st generation)
  • This update includes improvements and bug fixes.

watchOS 5.x

WatchOS 5 was first shown to the public at the San Joe WWDC developer conference held by Apple. It had an instant watch-to-watch walkie-talkie mode.[24] This is the first version of watchOS to not support the first generation Apple Watch.

Table of versions: watchOS 5.x - Apple Watch
Watch family:
watchOS version iOS version based on Build Release date Features
5.0 12.0 16R364 September 17, 2018

Initial Release on Apple Watch Series 4

  • Workout
    • Compete with Friends notifications
    • Auto detect workout and notification to turn off workout when done.
    • New workouts, Yoga and Hiking
    • Pace Alerts and Cadence
  • Podcasts
    • New app for WatchOS
    • Stream your favorite podcasts on the go with Cellular Apple Watch
  • Walkie-Talkie
    • A new app that allows you to do FaceTime Audio calls like a walkie-talkie
  • Siri
    • Watchface adds 3rd party access to Siri
    • Raise to speak, no longer do you need to say Hey Siri to activate
    • Integrates with shortcuts like "I am on my way home" and siri will start playing your favorite playlist on the way home.
  • Notifications
    • Improved with grouping notifications
    • More actions you can do with Notifications
    • Can view webpages from iMessages
  • Do Not Disturb
    • Can schedule Do Not Disturb events when leaving a location or just for a specific time period.
  • Student ID Cards
5.0.1 12.0 16R381/16R382 September 27, 2018
  • Bug fix for Activity Ring
5.1 beta 3 12.1 beta 3 16R5577c October 9, 2018

See also

Other operating systems developed by Apple Inc.

Other competing platforms


  1. Juli Clover (September 27, 2018). "Apple Releases watchOS 5.0.1 Update for Apple Watch With Activity Ring Fix". MacRumors. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  2. "watchOS 5.0.1 (16R381 | 16R382) - Releases - Apple Developer". September 27, 2018. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  3. Juli Clover (October 9, 2018). "Apple Seeds Third Beta of watchOS 5.1 to Developers". MacRumors. Retrieved October 9, 2018.
  4. "watchOS 5.1 beta 3 (16R5577c) - Releases - Apple Developer". October 9, 2018. Retrieved October 9, 2018.
  5. 1 2 "Apple Watch runs 'most' of iOS 8.2, may use A5-equivalent processor". AppleInsider. Retrieved April 25, 2015.
  6. "Apple announces watchOS 2 with third-party Apple Watch apps, new Timepieces, video playback, much more". 9to5Mac. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
  7. "watchOS 2 final version released for Apple Watch users". Retrieved September 21, 2015.
  8. "Apple's watch OS 2 is now live following bug delay - CNET". CNET. Retrieved September 23, 2015.
  9. {Juli Clover (September 17, 2018). "Apple Launches watchOS 5 With Walkie-Talkie, Apple Podcasts, Siri Shortcuts, New Watch Faces, Raise to Speak and More". MacRumors. Retrieved September 17, 2018.
  10. "watchOS 5 adds powerful activity and communications features to Apple Watch". Apple Newsroom (Press release). Retrieved 2018-06-05.
  11. "How To Use and Organize Apple Watch Glances". iPhoneTricks. Retrieved April 27, 2015.
  12. "Apple Watch – Technology". Apple. Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  13. "Apple Is Going After The Health Care Industry, Starting With Personal Health Data". CB Insights Research. 2017-09-20. Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  14. Phelan, David. "Apple Watch Secrets Revealed By Jony Ive, Health A Big Focus". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  15. Phelan, 2018.
  16. "Apple Watch's heart rate sensor can detect diabetes, Cardiogram study finds". Macworld. Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  17. 1 2 3 "Apple Watch Firmware". Retrieved May 19, 2015.
  18. "Apple Watch Timekeeping". Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  19. "Apple Watch Built-in Apps". Retrieved June 29, 2015.
  20. "watchOS 1.01 information". Apple Inc. Retrieved May 24, 2016.
  21. "About the security content of watch OS 1.0.1 - Apple Support". Apple. Retrieved June 29, 2015.
  22. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "watchOS 2.x information". Apple Inc. Retrieved May 24, 2016.
  23. "Apple has temporarily pulled the watchOS 3.1.1 update due to reports of it bricking devices". 9to5Mac. Retrieved December 14, 2016.
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