Apple just announced the new version of the watchOS, Apple smartwatch operating system, the watchOS 3.
WatchOS 3 features a revamped user interface that eliminates the iconic app launcher with its grid of tiny circular app icons, a better access to apps, better performance, handwriting support and new APIs for developers. Other features include semi-automated SOS call, Instant Launch, new fitness features and new watch faces.
This new version of the Apple Watch operating system certainly addresses a number of known issues, including the apps’ slow loading time and the difficult access to the key features and the apps.
The watchOS 3 release preview is available today for developers and users will be able to get it in the fall.
Continue reading for a more detailed description.
Better performance: Instant Launch
According to Apple, apps will launch up to seven times faster than on WatchOS 2, and Apple executive Kevin Lynch stated that “ in watchOS 3 your apps can respond instantly” and showed a live demo that got a lot of applause.
New user interface: Control center, new Dock, easier access to everything
Many users complained about the difficulty to use the WatchOS 2 app launcher, due to the tiny size of its app icons. Apple replaced it by the new Control Center, accessible by a swipe from the bottom of the display, “just like in iOS” said the Apple executive.
By pushing the button on the side, below the crown, users will now access the dock of recent apps, instead of the contact list, and third party apps can be in the dock now. From there, you can swipe through the app rapidly and see the key data and information right from the dock.
Faster reply to messages and faster access to new faces have been added to the new user interface: you can now just swipe to switch faces, making the experience more fun and more practical.
Stacey Lysik, Director of Apple Watch Software Program, said that“ apps have been redesigned to put me within one tap from the things I most want to do”, while demoing the new Timer app that gives direct access to the four most common choices right from the screen. Similarly, with one tap users can call a car using the Lyft app.
Scribble: handwriting support
It is now easier and faster to reply to messages; Apple has added smart reply options at the bottom of each message, including the ability to handwrite the reply directly on the screen, in addition to dictation or emoticons. Scribble lets users draw letters with their finger on the watch’s screen, the demo on stage at WWDC was shown using Chinese characters.
Handwriting is utterly useful for Asian languages, as it is easier to draw Asian characters than type them on a keyboard.
Google demoed a similar feature for its new Android Wear 2.0 at Googe I/O last May.
New SOS feature
We have seen a number of innovations in the wearable tech startup world, with connected jewelry that offers safety features. Apple certainly follows innovations that pops here and there, and one of the key feature launched today was the SOS on the watch that users can trigger by the push of the side button during a safety situation. 911 is then automatically called, and the emergency services will be on a call on your watch, via the cellular network connected to the user’s iPhone or via the Wifi network connected to the watch. When the call is over, watchOS 3 will automatically notify the user’s emergency contacts, with a map displaying his/her location. The user’s medical ID, including age and allergies, will be displayed on the screen. This feature works in the US and abroad, when users travel, with automated detection of the local emergency phone number.
New fitness features: Activity , Wheelchair, and Breathe apps
Activity app with Activity sharing
Apple launched a new Activity app that will show your activity when you raise your arm. The app offers a new live scoreboard that can be shared with friends, to foster motivation and encouragement via social interactions (see screenshots), direct messaging is now enabled from inside the application with smart reply options and audio messages. For the most competitive users, data such as racing heart rate can be shared as well. At some point, it looks like the most intimate information about yourself will not be private anymore.
Fast access was the focus of this OS update, so Apple created the ability to add more complications to the faces, which is useful to see all your activity updates right from the home screen. Information like the weather or sports results can be displayed as complications on faces as well.
Last month, Google showcased a similar function on its new Android Wear 2.0.
According to the company, wheelchair users love the Apple watch since it gives them instant access to notifications and messages because they often have to keep their iPhone away from their hands. There will be two workouts dedicated to wheelchair users, and the activity ring has been optimized for people in wheelchairs.
Apple worked with the Challenged Athletes Foundation and the Lakeshore Foundation to conduct studies that helped build the new application.
Mindfulness and meditation are becoming more trendy in the corporate world as a way to reduce stress and live a healthier life. Stress reduction via breathing exercises is also a great feature that can be easily enabled by wearable devices. The heart rate variability monitors the level of stress, and advanced sensors can measure it.
The watchOS 3 Breathe app will guide the user via visuals or haptic feedback (when eyes are closed) and, at the end each session, it will provide the heart rate data.
Developers: Apple Pay support and new APIs
Apple announced some developers specific new additions to the operating system, including the Apple Pay support for standalone apps for the Watch, which will allow users to make purchases directly from the watch.
Third party fitness apps will now be able to run in the background during workouts, enabling real-time access to heart rate and motion data. According to Apple, this will allow a new category of fitness apps on the watch.
Apple also announced the native support of SpriteKit and SceneKit, to allow developers to create richer and more animated apps. Developers will also benefit from native support for events, touch gestures, and the crown.
Audio and video can be directly embedded in apps now, and can be connected to devices using Game Center and CloudKit.