Apple has unveiled watchOS 3, the latest version of the Apple Watch operating system which delivers snappier responses from apps, new watch faces and improved navigation features.
The updated OS now stores the wearer’s favourite apps in memory, allowing them to launch and respond instantly. Native and third-party apps now launch apparently seven times faster than in watchOS 2, and in a demo they really did seem to launch in the blink of an eye.
The apps can update in the background, making them stuffed with the latest information when launched.
Apple has added the ability to access a wearer’s favourite apps by tapping the side button below the Watch’s Digital Crown to make navigating watchOS 3 slicker on such a small screen.
Swiping up on the screen brings up a control centre, much like a stripped down version of the control centre in iOS 9.
Messaging on the Apple Watch has also been improved, allowing wearers to reply to messages on screen and access smart replies just below the message. Those wanting to respond with something a little more original can use the new Scribble feature which effectively enables users to write replies on the watch face by sketching out letters on top of each other on the screen. Scribble then figures out the letters and puts them into full words.
New watch faces have been added, including a Minnie Mouse to go with the Mickey Mouse face, a elegant simple face dubbed Numerals and a face called Activity, which comes in three guises and, as the name suggests, shows activity data integrated into the watch face.
People can rapidly switch between faces by simply swiping though them, pretty much making changing watch faces dead simple. There are more customisation options to add data to the screen such as weather information.
Accident-prone Apple Watch wearers will be pleased to know that Apple has added an SOS function which, through pressing and holding the side button, starts an emergency services call countdown over a cellular connection to the iPhone or over WiFi.
The Watch then sends a message, location and the wearer’s medical ID to the emergency services. The really smart thing here is that it works internationally as well as in the US, recognising the right emergency services number in the given country.
Apple has enhanced the Activity app on the Watch, allowing fitness fanatics to share activity data with fellow workout pals and send supportive and motivational messages through voice messaging.
The Activity app has been optimised for people in wheelchairs, offering tracking and notifications suitable for their situations and exercise patterns. There is also a new health app called Breath, which provides a breathing exercise regime to help reduce stress.
Finally, Apple has released new APIs for watchOS 3 that allow developers to create Watch apps that integrate Apple Pay, as well as gain access to native functions like the fitness and motion tracking data, gestures, speaker audio and the CloudKit and Game Centre.
A preview version of watchOS 3 is available today, and a full version will be rolled out in the autumn. µ
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