Apple held their annual worldwide developers conference today in San Francisco, and made some major announcements regarding all four of their software platforms. Here’s all the new announcements around Apple Watch and watchOS.
With watchOS 3, users will now have a smoother—and more importantly, faster—experience while using their Apple Watch.
Now, instead of the pinwheel you may get when opening apps, they respond instantly—so no more waiting around for an app to open. watchOS 3 keeps your favorite apps in memory, along with background refresh of information—so your apps not only launch instantly, but you’ll see the most up-to-date information without long load times. Apple is saying it’s seven times the performance of watchOS 2. And, because there was no announcement (yet, anyway) of a new device, watchOS 3 provides users with this upgrade on their current Watch model.
What will be interesting to see is how these features affect battery life. Natively-running apps and the ability to not always rely on iPhone should improve it, but how will background refresh affect it? Time will tell.
watchOS 3 now includes Control Center. And just like on other iOS devices, users can swipe up from the bottom to access different controls for their Watch.
Apple has also introduced Scribble to watchOS 3—a touch keyboard on their Watch. So users can write letters with just their finger. It’s similar to a feature recently announced for Android Wear devices, and seems to work similarly to the Handwriting feature in VoiceOver in Accessibility that’s been on iPhone and iPad for a couple of years. Scribble currently works with both English and Chinese—and it automatically detects the language set on your keyboard.
New watch faces also are getting introduced in watchOS 3—including Minnie Mouse, Numerals, and Activity. And switching watch faces is now as simple as swiping between them.
One of the biggest changes is to the buttons on Watch. With the side button, you can now access a new apps dock feature—where you can see live information in each app without having to launch it. And third-party apps can run in the dock area, too. And holding the side button for a few seconds launches a new safety feature that automatically calls emergency services in your area. So if you find yourself in a situation where you need help, and can’t easily or safely get to your iPhone, pressing the side button will automatically contact 911—or any emergency services wherever you are in the world. And when the call has ended, it also notifies people on your Emergency Contacts list.
New Activity Features
Apple stated that one of the most common uses for Watch is tracking personal fitness. So to help users get more out of their device, they’ve added a few new features to help friends and family compete with their fitness levels—giving them a way to see where they’re at in their pursuit for fitness glory. You can even send message of encouragement or of defeat right from the app. You can now also easily sort your workouts by steps, exercise minutes, and more.
And, activity tracking has been expanded to wheelchair users—with new ways of tracking movements and even reminders of “Time to roll” in place of “Time to stand”.
Apple’s even introducing a new app called Breathe—a way for those who practice deep breathing for relaxation or meditation to set timed sessions and track their levels. Watch can even take advantage of the haptic feedback to help users during their session without having to look at their Watch.
Probably the biggest announcement, however, is that Apple is opening up many aspects of Watch—including Apple Pay, background processing for fitness apps, and control of things like buttons, speaker, and video—to third-party developers. So your Watch is about to have much more functionality sooner than later. It’s something that Apple should have included in watchOS 1, but at least it’s there now.
For all the coverage from WWDC 2016, check out our other posts on iOS 10, macOS, and tvOS.