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Apple Watch’s new photo face puts a portrait on your wrist. Here’s how it works in WatchOS 8

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Your Apple Watch is getting a new watch face later this year. Here’s what you need to know


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This story is part of WWDC 2021. All the latest coverage from Apple’s annual developers conference.

According to Apple, the most popular watch face on the Apple Watch is also the most personal: the Photos face, which lets you select favorite photos that your watch will rotate through every time you lift your wrist and wake the watch. Among the most notable new feature Apple unveiled with WatchOS 8 is a new Portraits watch face slated to arrive later this fall. 

Every time you take a photo using Portrait Mode on your iPhone’s camera, it captures a bunch of information that includes the depth of the photo. That’s how your phone is able to add a blurry background around the person in the photo. The Portrait face uses that same information to add a 3D-like look to your watch face. You can even place the clock in front or behind the person, and when you turn the Digital Crown on your watch, the picture looks like it comes to life by zooming in and out.

WatchOS 8 is currently available to developers, but there will be a public beta in July that will allow anyone with a compatible Apple to test out the unreleased software, alongside iOS 15 and iPadOS 15

Here’s what we know so far about the new Portrait watch face. 


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Apple Watch gets Portrait face feature



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Portrait Mode photos start with your iPhone

To set up a new portrait mode watch face begins with a photo that you captured in Portrait Mode using your iPhone camera. You can look through all of the Portrait Mode photos you’ve taken by opening the Photos app on your iPhone and selecting the Albums tab. 

Scroll down until you see Media Types, then select Portrait. Any pictures you have saved in that album can be used with the watch face. If you don’t have any Portrait photos, it’s time to start taking some. Not only can you create a totally personalized watch face, but you’ll take some awesome pics in the process. 

Creating your Portrait watch face should be easy

Almost all of the watch face creation process is done on your iPhone in the Watch app. Well, technically you can create a watch face on the Apple Watch directly, but it can be hard to get it just right on that small screen. 

portrait-watch-face

You can see there are many different clock fonts and positions you can arrange the photo with it. 


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I expect Apple will add the Portrait watch face to the app with the release of iOS 15, and will follow the same process that creating a Photos watch face uses now. Meaning, you’ll open the Watch app, go to the Face Gallery, select the Portrait face then you can view, select and edit the Portrait photo you want to use on your watch face.

Apple did say during the announcement that you’ll be able to arrange where the photo overlaps with the clock, giving you even more customization options — and making sure the clock doesn’t wind up cutting off someone’s head. 

What we still don’t know

Because the watch face isn’t available yet, there are still some things we don’t know about it. The biggest question I still have is how many photos can I add to the face for it to cycle through? Or is it only one photo per watch face? 

We’ll certainly have more answers when the public beta is released in July. 

The Apple Watch isn’t the only Apple device getting new software. The iPhone is getting iOS 15, while Apple’s tablet lineup is getting iPadOS 15. For its part, the Mac is getting MacOS Monterey. Each of which has plenty of fun, new features you’ll want to check out.

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