The watchOS 8 public beta is now available, but remember – there’s no way to downgrade

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9to5Mac 01 July, 2021 - 09:21am 22 views

Should I download IOS 15 public beta?

As always, we never recommend downloading a beta version of any software on your primary device due to bugs. In the case of iOS 15, you should only download this public beta if you have a second iPhone that you can use for testing -- not on your main phone. CNETApple's iOS 15 beta is here, but watch out for these bugs

Apple this week has officially released the first public betas of iOS 15, iPadOS 15, tvOS 15, and watchOS 8. As we wrote yesterday, there are some risks to installing the iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 public betas, but you can take comfort in knowing that you can easily downgrade to iOS 14 if you experience bugs and performance issues.

The same, however, can’t be said for watchOS 8. Once you install the watchOS 8 public beta (or developer beta), there is no way to downgrade…

Until last year, Apple had never even offered a public beta of watchOS because of the risk. watchOS 7 was the first Apple Watch software to be available in public beta form, and that trend continues with this year’s release of watchOS 8.

Here is the warning Apple shows to Apple Watch users when signing up for the watchOS 8 public beta:

The watchOS public beta updates are still in development, which means some applications and services may not work as expected, and their data may not be backwards compatible. Apple Watch content backs up automatically to your paired iPhone. You can learn more about Apple Watch backups here. Please note Apple Watch cannot be restored to previously-released OS versions once the public beta is installed.

What this means is that if you update to watchOS 8 and you face bugs or performance issues, there is no way to revert to the stable version of watchOS 7. While watchOS 8 is relatively stable in early beta form, there are still some bugs and performance issues, including worse-than-usual battery life, compatibility issues with third-party apps, and semi-regular crashes.

If you do face show-stopping bugs with watchOS 8, the only solution is to reach out to Apple directly and have your Apple Watch replaced.

As we suggested for iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, one solution is to install watchOS 8 first on an older or spare Apple Watch to assess the stability. This way, you’ll know what bugs you might face and whether or not all of your Apple Watch apps are compatible.

If you assess the risk and decide you want to install watchOS 8 on your Apple Watch, you can learn more in our detailed guide right here.

If you install iOS 15 and watchOS 8, then downgrade from iOS 15 back to iOS 14, your Apple Watch will not pair with your iPhone. This means that if you update to watchOS 8, you are also committing to running iOS 15 indefinitely as well.

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Apple Watch is Apple's wearable is designed to help you stay active, motivated, and connected. It runs watchOS, and it comes in 40mm and 44mm size options.

Chance is an editor for the entire 9to5 network and covers the latest Apple news for 9to5Mac.

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Hands On With Apple's WatchOS 8 Beta: Better Texting, Portrait Mode Watch Faces, and More

PCMag 01 July, 2021 - 08:48am

Apple's watchOS 8 delivers overnight respiration tracking, fresh mindfulness features, and at long last, GIFs! We take it for a spin.

WatchOS 8 will deliver a number of new features to Apple Watches in the coming months, including overnight respiration tracking, fresh mindfulness features, watch faces, texting tools, and more. 

The next-generation smartwatch operating system won't officially be available until the fall, but if you're brave, you can try it out right now. While developers have had access to the software since June, Apple just released the first public beta for watchOS 8, and I was eager to check it out. 

The beta software is free to download on the Apple Watch Series 3 and later. To get the upgrade, your Apple Watch will need to be paired with an iPhone 6s or later running the iOS 15 public beta.

Before you go for it, you should know that once you install the public beta, you won't be able to restore your Apple Watch software to an older version, which could mean dealing with some bugs until they're ironed out. The good news is that I haven't encountered any major performance issues so far.

Getting the public beta up and running on my Apple Watch Series 6 took around 1.5 hours. You first need to enroll your iPhone in the iOS 15 beta program and install it on your handset. On my iPhone 12 Pro Max, this step took the bulk of the time, around an hour. Once that's done, you can enroll your Apple Watch in the beta software program, then download and install watchOS 8

If that sounds like too much hassle, don't worry. When the software arrives for the general public this fall, the process for downloading and installing it will be much simpler.

One of my first priorities after downloading watchOS 8 was to try out the new Portraits watch face. 

In the Watch app on your iPhone, you can select up to 24 of your favorite Portrait mode snaps and turn them into watch faces. Once you pick a winner, you can move and scale the image, and select whether you want the time to appear at the top or bottom of the screen.

You can then pick from three different text styles for the time: classic, modern, or rounded, and optionally add the date, plus another complication such as battery life, heart rate, or Siri shortcut. My dog Bradley always makes me smile, so I used a Portrait of him. I went with the classic text option for the time, which I positioned at the bottom of the screen, with the date below it. 

Once added to your watch, the Portrait mode photo will slightly zoom when you raise your wrist or use the Digital Crown. Apple says the existing Photos watch face is the most popular choice, so I'm sure the new Portrait option will be a hit. 

Texting from the Apple Watch isn't always the easiest, but watchOS 8 should help streamline the process. When composing a message, you can now Scribble, dictate, and add emojis from the same screen. You can, for instance, tap the microphone icon to start out dictating a message, then switch to Scribble to spell out a word, then add an emoji before pressing send. 

The new text composition screen is fairly intuitive, but it will take some getting used to. In testing, I accidentally pressed send on a few texts before I was done composing them. 

Meanwhile, if you spot an error in a dictated message, you can now use the Digital Crown to move the on-screen cursor to the offending spot for editing, a feature I find very helpful and easy to use. Apple says that dictation is one of the most popular ways to communicate using the Apple Watch, and everyone knows that it can be hit or miss, so this feature will undoubtedly prove useful to many more people than just me. 

Overall, I still find it easier to text from my phone, but these new features certainly improve the experience of composing messages on your watch. 

And best of all, when you don't feel like using words and emojis, you can text a GIF from your Apple Watch. To do so, just tap the A symbol in a message, then tap the magnifying glass to browse or search for a GIF. 

With watchOS 8, Apple is introducing a new tool to help you de-stress and find your zen. Located inside the Mindfulness app (previously called Breathe) is a new session type called Reflect. 

When I tried a one-minute Reflect session, the watch offered the following meditation prompt: "Think of a time when you quietly listened to someone else," it encouraged. "Consider how this enriched your experience." 

When you press Begin, the watch shows a delightfully colorful, trippy animation on screen to help you zone out. When the session ended, the watch offered some advice, "Stay open to learning from others," before displaying my heart rate. 

As a yogi, I love the new meditation prompts and animations, and I think Steve Jobs would have approved. In addition to these new Reflect sessions, the Mindfulness app still offers its classic guided breathing exercise with updated visuals. 

Last year's watchOS 7 brought sleep tracking to the Apple Watch, and now watchOS 8 adds a new overnight metric: your respiration rate. Using its integrated accelerometer, the watch will measure the number of breaths you take per minute while sleeping. 

To receive this data, you need to have sleep tracking enabled on the Apple Watch when you wear it to bed (visit Settings on the watch, scroll down and tap Sleep, then toggle on Sleep Tracking). Then in the morning, you can view your respiratory rate information for the previous night, as well as your trends over time, in the Health app. 

The first night I tested this feature on my Series 6, I got an interesting result, likely because I had received my second shot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine the same day. Based on my testing of other respiration-tracking devices, including the Google Nest Hub (2nd Gen) and the Fitbit Luxe, I already know I average around 14 to 15 breaths per minute while sleeping, but I was interested to see whether post-vaccine side effects might impact this. 

That night, I was experiencing several of the post-vaccine side effects you hear about: headache, muscle pain, and I believe I was also running a fever at certain points. Unsurprisingly, my overnight respiration rate climbed as high as 21.4 breaths per minute, according to my Apple Watch Series 6. The watch measured my hourly average at 16.1 to 20.6 breaths per minute. 

I got a similar result from the Nest Hub, which averaged my overnight respiration rate at 18 breaths per minute that night. The Apple Watch gives you a lot more information about your respiration rate than the Nest Hub, which just shows your nightly average.

In the Health app, Apple says a respiration rate of 12 to 20 breaths per minute when you're awake and moving around is "generally considered normal for an adult." Factors such as working out, sleeping, and "a wide variety of medical conditions" (including fever) can affect your respiration rate, so it's not surprising that mine shot up when I was feeling post-vaccine side effects. Fortunately, those side effects already seem to be resolving, so I'm sure my respiration rate will soon go back down to normal.

WatchOS 8 is a major release with many other fresh features, including support for digital house and hotel room keys, an updated Home app that promises to make it easier to control compatible smart home devices, new workout tracking options (for pilates and Tai Chi), and more. I'm just scratching the surface of what it entails in this first look, so be sure to check out our coverage of watchOS 8 when it officially arrives this fall.

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Angela is PCMag's smart home and wearable device analyst. She previously spent eight years as a PCMag reporter, and prior to that was a reporter for SC Magazine, covering hackers and computer security. She has also written for several newspapers, including The Northern Valley Suburbanite in New Jersey, The Dominion Post in West Virginia, and the Uniontown-Herald Standard in Pennsylvania. She is a graduate of West Virginia University's Perely Isaac Reed School of Journalism.

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