With the launch of watchOS 2- and some new accessories- this week, the Apple Watch is much closer to its potential than it was when it originally launched in April. Following the release of iOS 9, watchOS 2 is released just in time to take full advantage of the sales boost that will come from the looming holiday season. For those that have an Apple Watch it is a welcomed enhancement, and for those who haven’t purchased one yet it may be enough to convince them to jump on board.
As Apple Watch apps developers, we are extremely excited to take advantage of the new features that this upgrade allows. In case you missed the watch OS 2 announcement, here is a highlight of some of the new features we excited about:
The biggest announcement for Apple Watch that came out of the September 9th Apple Special Event was the ability for apps to work natively on the watch- although some may argue it was their new partnership with Hermes!. Previously, apps would run on a synced iPhone and then project an interface onto the watch. This led to an inevitable delay while the two devices sent information back and forth. Running natively allows the watch to handle much more robust functionality in apps, while also making them faster and more responsive. As well, the apps now have more access to the device’s features, which means that users will be able to do much more from their wrist without ever having to pull out their phone. Most of theses features, such as the Taptic Engine, microphone, and accelerometer were already in place with the original watch launch, but only now are third party apps able to take advantage. Showing that Apple had the hardware in place all along, but wanted to make sure they were able to back it up with the correct software before deploying these features.
New Watch Designs
Although they have nothing to do with the watchOS 2, new watch bands are of high importance when you consider that a lot of the allure around wearables are their aesthetics. Alongside the OS announcement, Apple released two new case colours and a wide array of new bands, including the aforementioned collaboration with Hermes. The partnership with the Parisian luxury brand seems very organic considering both brands are highly centralized around the quality of both form and function. With wearables the line between technology and fashion accessory are blurring, and Apple hopes that this will allow them to benefit from the fashion-forward tech consumer.
Time Machine takes advantage of the new ability to scroll through time-sensitive information using the digital crown to scroll backwards and forwards in time, without having to open an app. Although not as useful as an actual time machine, this feature does seem like it will come in handy when paired with utility apps such as weather, transit, news, or calendar apps.
Always wanted to look like a spy while talking to your friends, well now you can with Facetime Audio for the Apple Watch. Facetime Audio takes advantage of the built-in microphone, which was previously only used for communicating with Siri. Talking into your wrist in public may not be socially acceptable yet, but your phone is out of reach it’ll be very practical.
New Watch Faces
Another subtle change to the user experience of the Apple Watch is the addition of three new watch faces- basically the wallpaper for your watch. You can choose to set your background as a single photo from your photo album, let it scroll through your photo albums, or have a scenic time lapse photo. For those who believe customization is key, this will be an exciting feature.
The watchOS 2 upgrade also integrates a new nightstand mode for when it is charging, an upgraded messenger platform making it easier to connect with friends, and an upgrade to Siri which makes her more versatile. The watch now also allows for third-party complications, which are small pieces of information which appear directly on the watch face to provide quick access, similar to widgets on a Mac.
This upgrade to the Apple Watch is more about the possibilities it brings about rather than the immediacy of its features. Not until native watch apps start to flood the market will this upgrade really flex its muscles. The Apple Watch (and wearables in general) are definitely making strides toward becoming “must-haves” in the tech ecosystem, and adoption will likely occur rather quickly.