It’s been over a year since the Apple Watch has been on the market and it’s finally receiving the upgrade fans have been waiting for. After some big features in watchOS 2, Apple on Monday unveiled the big new features hitting watchOS, and they’re a big deal.
The big headlining feature is what Apple says are instant apps. Instead of launching an app, waiting for it to load, and then using the app, now app should launch instantly. Apple demoed the big difference on stage at WWDC on Monday, and it’s a dramatic improvement on usability. Overall, watchOS should perform a lot better.
In watchOS 3, apps are kept in memory with the background refresh of data. We would have loved for Instant Launch to be available in the first place, but baby steps. The Apple Watch is still coming into its own but Apple is taking some big steps toward making the experience much easier to use.
Additionally, the side button of the Apple Watch now opens the dock instead of the communications screen. Other features include a Control Center, and an easier way to reply to messages. Although performance is being emphasized, the UI is getting a small overhaul, too, with new watch faces and a scribble feature to write out quick messages.
There’s also a new feature called SOS; just press and hold on the side button and it calls 911. Once you call an emergency service, it’ll pull your location and instantly message friends you designate. Then it’ll show your medical ID, which is another new feature.
WatchOS 3 also includes activity sharing, which allows users to compete with friends and others in the community. Want to brag to a friend? You can send a voice message to others through activity sharing; that’s how we’ll talk smack to each other in the future.
Make no mistake, this is a pretty big update for Apple, making the experience simpler and more intuitive. Of course, having the apps running in the background will likely affect battery, so we’ll have to keep an eye on that once watchOS 3 launches later this year. But Apple is making smart changes designed to make the Apple Watch better.
Take, for example, its emphasis on wheelchair users. Now, the watch will tell users “Time to roll” rather than “Time to stand.” The watch will also track wheelchair pushes rather than steps. Finally, there’s a neat app called Breathe, which is designed to help people calm down and de-stress. Just turn the watch’s crown and set how long you want to breathe for, close your eyes, and the watch will do the rest.
Apple breezed through a number of other features coming to watchOS 3, including the ability to run workout apps in the background, give real-time heart rate stats, inline video, and more. WatchOS developer preview is available today with a consumer launch this fall.