The watchOS 8 feature that makes Apple Watch fitness apps much better

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Now that Apple has released iOS 15 and watchOS 8 for everyone, it’s time to explore the new features. There are the obvious and flashy ones, like the World Timer watch face (it’s really pretty) and new types of training (tai chi and Pilates).

But it’s the Always On support for third-party apps that could change the way you use your Apple Watch.

Until watchOS 8, only apps chosen by Apple had full support for the Always On state of the watch, meaning apps remained active and fully visible when you lower your wrist. Most other apps would become blurry and dark, with Apple’s digital clock obscuring part of the app.

This was especially problematic with third-party fitness apps, which are much more useful if you can still see metrics on your watch screen without constantly having to lift your wrist. (Try doing this by doing push-ups to see what I mean.)

That’s why I often used Apple’s Workout app by default, which had this functionality from the start, instead of using some of the much more powerful third-party fitness apps.

With watchOS 8, however, any app can remain fully visible (albeit a bit inconspicuous) in the Always On state. According to Apple’s documentation on the new feature: “Now watchOS 8 extends Always On to include your apps. Apple Watch continues to display your app’s UI as long as it’s the app. most foreground or a background session.To conserve battery life, the system updates the user interface at a much lower frequency than when running in the foreground. It also darkens the watch. “

It does not happen automatically; the app itself needs to be compiled for watchOS 8 (developers, see details here) for it to work, and not all app developers have done so at the time of writing.

An app that released a new version with this feature runs the Helium app. I’ve tried it, and it’s certainly much more useful when the watch is in the Always On state, with virtually all of its metrics fully visible and active.

Helium is one of the apps that now looks almost the same in active state and Always-On state.

I think more Apple Watch app developers will introduce this change in the coming days.

In the meantime, it’s worth checking out some of Apple’s own apps that didn’t have this feature before. With watchOS 8, the company now supports Always On on several new applications, including Maps, mindfulness, now playing, phone, podcasts, stopwatch, timers and voice memos.

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