WatchOS 2 should make the Apple Watch worth it
It has been over eight months since the big upgrade to watchOS 2 began, but since then we’ve seen extra iterations of the operating system land all the way up to watchOS 2.2.
WatchOS 2 launched in September 2015 with a plethora of new features and updates to Apple Watch features you already loved.
Since then, we have seen it updated four times and the latest software for your wearable is WatchOS 2.2.1, which is based on iOS 9.3.2.
If you haven’t updated your software already, it’s certainly worth doing. Siri is smarter, public transit will show up in Maps and there are new watch faces. If you own an Apple Watch, here are all the key reasons you should upgrade it to the latest software.
Apple Watch OS 2 release date
It’s out right now, and has been for almost eight months. There was a five day delay on the release to start with, but just like past major Apple OS updates the Apple Watch’s software upgrade is free.
Apple Watch OS 2 latest upgrades
WatchOS 2.2.1 is the latest software upgrade and most of the upgrades since the original watchOS 2 release have been minor improvements.
There have been a lot of fixes to stability issues and even the latest upgrade – watchOS 2.2.1 – just focused on performance issues.
Problems have been fixed such as limits on only being able to pair one Apple Watch with your phone, calendar issues and third-party app icons breaking. There’s also support for a new range of languages for those who can speak multiple tongues.
Watch OS 2.0.1 was perhaps the most important though as it fixed issues with the battery performance as well as bringing in the new emoji characters that were included on iOS 9.1.
Watch OS 2 brought a new selection of third-party apps with it. The Facebook Messenger app for Watch allowed you to be able to text, send audio files and share locations right from the wrist.
GoPro can lets you use the Apple Watch as a viewfinder so that no matter where your camera is mounted, you’ll always know where it’s pointed. iTranslate lets you see, hear and translate over 90 languages by speaking to your Watch.
This was all possible as devs now have access to the smartwatch’s sensors and controls like the Taptic Engine, Digital Crown and more. It means we’re beginning to see native apps for the platform, opposed to ones that are simply ported over. Native apps allow faster run time and greater app capabilities.
Sensors and controls
The Digital Crown provides functionality beyond zooming in and out. Rotating the crown lets you ‘Time Travel’ showing various events up to 72 hours into the future or past events, right on the watch face. Weather and news headlines are also other complications that Time Travel will work with.
It’s cool seeing what the weather will be like, and if you’ve got your calendar set up perfectly it’s neat to see what appointments are coming up.
The microphone is accessible to other apps now, which means developers are also be able to use your voice in their builds.
Developers now have access to the accelerometer too, so you can expect future apps to utilize this feature more.
Watch display settings
Yes, this sounds exactly like what you think it is. The Apple Watch is able to connect to open Wi-Fi networks without needing to connect to your iPhone first. You can leave your phone in another room and your wrist will be a perfectly suitable alternative.
It’s been hard to find a time to put this into practice though – you can keep the Watch connection alive in most homes thanks to being close enough.
There were 10 customizable Apple Watch faces at launch, and as we expected we’ve now got more to play with.
Modular looks much nicer with more colors to play with (along with the extra complications to check out).
Time Lapse: Apple shot time-lapse videos over 24 hours in Hong Kong, London, Mack Lake, New York and Shanghai to create these new faces, and Paris was recently added to the mix. This is one that we’re really in to, as it adds an element of dynamism to the Watch, with movement every time you lift your wrist.
It would be brilliant if you could film your own time-lapse here and code it to the correct time stamps; given that the iPhone 6S is going to have a stabilized time-lapse mode, this could be awesome.
Photo and Album modes: Just like iPhone backgrounds, your collection of pictures is now fodder for your smartwatch faces. It takes a bit of work to get the right photos on there (you have to choose a specific folder to use and then sync it to the Watch), but it adds a really personal touch to your wrist.
It’s hard to work out how to get a single photo on the background though – you’ll need to fiddle around a lot to make this work.
Live Photos, enabled from the iPhone 6S by taking a 1.5-second video before and after the shot, will be able to play automatically on the Watch. So if you’re thinking of getting a joint bundle of Apple products, you’ll like this dynamic new feature.
Apple Watch Music
The interface for Music looks a bit different after the update as it’s been redesigned with new features. Quick Play has been added to make it easier to shuffle your music, a volume level indicator will be displayed, and the source of the audio file will also show up.
New ‘complications’ or information in the various watch faces will be able to display third-party apps, although we’ve currently not seen much from apps that can be added in here.
Flight times and home-controlled systems with Homekit devices will be accessible from your wrist, and your electric car charging information and more should show up soon. The complications can be changed on the Modular face and most of the other faces.
Nightstand mode flips your Apple Watch face to show horizontally while it’s charging. The Digital Crown becomes a snooze button and the side button turns off alarms. If you’re not a fan of lights, the display screen won’t show unless you touch it or one of the buttons.
It also begins to light up as you get closer to your alarm time – while it’s never woken us up with the gentle glow, it’s a nice mini alarm clock to have by your side.
One option that has been sorely missing has finally made it onto the Apple Watch: email replies. Just like text messages, you’re now able to reply directly from your wrist with voice dictation, emojis and smart responses. However, you can’t edit your messages – this is more about being able to archive or flag messages from the wrist, rather than them being locked into your phone.
Fitness, Siri and Maps
The OS 2 update makes your watch more useful for workouts. HealthKit has more metrics shown on the watch and a real-time heart rate monitor that will be able to stream from your wrist, which means medical professionals are now able to use the data.
Saying “Hey Siri” enables you to start a workout now, and the command can be as specific as “Hey Siri, start a 30-minute run” or “Hey Siri start a 300-calorie walk”, all without needing to open the app.
Other apps, like 7 Minute Fitness, can contribute to the rings on your Activity bar too, letting you keep all those valuable calories burned in one place.
Speaking of Siri, the little AI assistant can provide Glances by saying “Hey Siri, show me the Instagram glance” and it will pop up in the little voice search window. Siri is now able to control HomeKit devices and give you transit directions; we were only able to try the latter, and it needed to be told explicitly ‘Hey Siri, navigate me home using public transport’, otherwise it’ll think you want to use the car.
Apple Maps’ new transit directions will show up on your wrist with train, bus and subway schedules. However, as with Google Maps’ updated service, information is only provided for selected cities around the world. Though previously available with Apple Maps, walking directions to and from transit stops will be part of watchOS 2.
Wallet, re-dubbed Passbook, has been updated, and all the new options you can use in iOS 9 with Wallet are available on the wrist as well.
For those who enjoy the convenience of using Apple Pay on the smartwatch, OS 2 will enable more credit cards and reward cards to be stored on the device for better access – these are found with a double-tap of the side button (used to pointlessly store friends).
Friends and Digital Touch
For the popular folks who have more than 12 friends, you’re able to add more people to your Apple inner circle right from the watch instead of adding them from the app. They’re now categorized into different sets that show up on different screens for better organization.
Your tiny sketching experience will also be improved, as Digital Touch will let you use more than one color, so people can be more creative, although this just led to panic as we tried to draw a phallic object using more than one color and worried it would send half-finished as we tried to work out what to do with yellow.