Alongside iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra at WWDC 2017, Apple also announced a new version of the operating system software for the Apple Watch, watchOS 4, which adds a range of new features and interface tweaks. You can more about these enhancements here: watchOS 4 new features.
watchOS 4 will launch some time in the autumn, but in the meantime it is available for beta testing. (Be warned that beta versions of software are not finished and may contain bugs.)
So this article is divided into two main sections. First we explain how to install the latest beta of watchOS on your Apple Watch, which at present means watchOS 4. Then we show how to update your Apple Watch to the latest publicly available version of watchOS - at time of writing that's watchOS 3.2.2. We also try to explain some the reasons why grabbing a beta might not be the best idea.
watchOS 4 release date
watchOS 4 will be made available for all Apple Watch owners to download some time in the autumn of 2017. For the time being, if you want to download watchOS 4 and try out the new features, you'll need to install one of the beta testing versions.
Install the watchOS 4 beta
At any given moment, there will one or more beta versions of watchOS that aren't yet available to the general public. Sometimes these will be major updates and it may be worth the extra effort to get hold of the beta version and try out the new features early. (This is certainly the case for app developers who need to make their software work with the new OS.) At time of writing, the beta version is for watchOS 4.
If you're keen to try out a beta version of watchOS, here's how it's done. But be warned that beta software is never as reliable as the public-release stuff, so don't do this if you're not prepared for things to go wrong on your Apple Watch. Remember to back up any important data.
Before you install a beta version of watchOS, you'll have to install a beta certificate on your device. The beta certificate tells your iPhone to look for and allow you to install the watchOS beta directly OTA (over the air), much like a standard software update. Follow these steps to install a beta profile on your device.
Before you try to install the watchOS beta certificate, you'll have to be running a beta version of iOS too.
1) Log into the Apple Developer Portal on the iPhone paired with your Apple Watch.
2) Navigate to the watchOS download page.
3) Tap 'Download watchOS [x] beta Configuration Profile', for the appropriate version.
4) When prompted to choose a device, tap 'iPhone' then 'Install'.
5) Enter your Passcode, tap Install and then again to confirm.
6) Tap 'Restart' to reboot your iPhone and complete the configuration profile installation.
Once your iPhone has restarted, the watchOS beta update should appear as an update option within the Apple Watch companion app. From here, the update process is pretty standard.
Down sides of installing a watchOS beta
Is it worth having a buggy experience, just so you can try out watchOS 4?
Unlike for iOS and macOS, there's no public beta for the Apple Watch software. What does this mean? The only way you're able to install the watchOS 4 beta is by signing up to Apple's Developer Program, which will set you back £79 per year.We're not convinced that it's worth paying £79 a year unless you want to develop apps for the platform, and wouldn't recommend this option just to go hands-on with the beta.
However, the price of Apple's Developer Program isn't the biggest reason to avoid using the beta. The biggest reason is that downgrading back to the original watchOS is quite an undertaking, and can't be done at home. Instead, the process involves sending your Apple Watch to Apple. We can't really say more than that, as the instructions are under NDA within Apple's Developers Portal, so instead we'll say that unless you're a developer that wants to test their apps on watchOS 4, we'd wait until the official release in autumn.
Update to the latest public version of watchOS
So much for installing the beta. But updating to the latest publicly available version of watchOS is a lot easier.
The update takes place on the watch's associated iPhone rather than on the watch itself. Grab your iPhone and open the Apple Watch app. Make sure you're in the My Watch tab along the bottom menu and then tap General.
There may well be a little orange '1' next to the Software Update option, indicating that an update is ready (there'll be a red '1' next to the My Watch tab too); however, you may have to get the app to check for updates before you see this. Either way, tap Software Update and the app will run a check, then show you the details of the new version of watchOS.
In order to install watchOS 3.3.2 (or any other public watchOS update) there are some hoops to jump through: your iPhone and Apple Watch need to be in Bluetooth range; the watch must be connected to its charger and on at least 50 percent power; and as with all OS updates, you need to be on Wi-Fi. Other than this, simply follow the onscreen instructions and (after a bit of waiting) you'll have an updated Apple Watch.