As expected, the big update to Apple’s watch operating system was revealed on stage at WWDC today, and there’s lots to get excited about if you’re already an Apple Watch wearer in WatchOS 3.0.
Watch your Activity
Not longer do you need to settle for a stock watch face and settle for you activity hanging out in a complication — an Activity watch face will put all the pertinent info right up front. As you’d expect, there are a few different designs to choose from, so you can still, for example, choose between a digital time display, chronograph or analogue hands.
You can also use the Apple Watch to get competitive with your friends by comparing your data. Who’s walked the most steps, burned the most calories or done the most exercise? Someone slacking? Send them smack talk. Feeling a little friendlier? You can send a word of encouragement instead.
And, for those Watch wearers in wheelchairs, Activity tracking now swaps “Time to Stand” with “Time to Roll” and movement tracking now works properly with different types of wheelchair mobility.
Swipe up from the bottom of the Watch screen and you’ll get a page of buttons and switches along with a battery life indicator. There’s flight mode, do not disturb, night shift, sound mode toggles, and a screen lock… which should mean less swiping about to get to the one setting you want to turn off or on.
Quick replies get quicker
If you’re the sort who actually uses your Apple Watch to reply to message this update is for you. Quick replies used to require you to navigate to the right page to send one, but no more.
Now, when a message appears on your wrist, three icons will show up underneath it on the same screen. One lets you send a voice reply, the second sends an animated emoji reply, and the third shares your heartbeat.
If those don’t cut it you can scroll down and your written quick replies are there and ready to go. And if you want to write something else right away the brand new Scribble keyboard lets you draw characters one at a time — we can’t imagine this one’s going to be terribly useful, though, as writing a letter at a time is excruciating. Still, it’s a welcome option for those times you can’t find your phone and need to reply in a hurry.
In case of emergency
There’s a new SOS mode in WatchOS 3.0 that’s triggered by pressing and holding the side button. It’ll automatically call the emergency services number of the country you’re in over cellular or Wi-Fi, send your emergency contacts a map with your current location and then display your Medical ID details on the Watch screen.
Let’s hope we never need to use this one. Or that if we do we remember how it works.
…and some other things
One of our biggest gripes about the Apple Watch in the early days was how slow it was when it came to opening apps. WatchOS 3.0 promises to speed things up using some smart background memory management.
Multi-tasking also hasn’t been as efficient or effective as we’d like, but that’s getting overhauled to thanks to the addition of recent apps in the new dock. Push the side button to open said dock and you’ll find the previews are all live, which means you should be able to get info from each without actually going into them. Let’s hope it’s as slick a process as a demo suggests it is.
To our minds the strangest new addition to WatchOS is Breathe, an app that’ll monitor your heart rate and prompt you to do some deep breathing when it thinks you might need it. Supposedly, this sort of mindful inhalation is medically proven to help reduce stress, but it’s also another reminder to deal with over and above the hourly get-off-your-bum nudge.
So, when can you try out these new features? WatchOS 3.0 is available to developers today, but won’t land on regular users’ Apple Watches until spring. Until then, don’t forget to breathe, okay?