Watch OS 3 release date, news and features
Update: Apple is hosting WWDC 2016 right now and has just revealed its brand new Watch OS 3 software. Read on below for everything we know so far, and be sure to check out the live blog to find out the latest.
The new software means the watch is faster than ever before as well as handing a handful of new features to the Apple Watch.
Read on for a taste of what we’re going to get on our wrists later this year.
Cut to the chaseWhat is it? The next version of Apple’s smartwatch operating systemWhen’s it out? In the fall, probably September/OctoberWhat will it cost? Nothing, it’s an upgrade!Apple Watch OS 3 release date
Apple has revealed Watch OS 3 at WWDC 2016, and Apple has said it will be ready for release in the Fall this year. We’d expect that to mean in September or October as that’s what happened with the Watch OS 2 upgrade last year. The developer preview of Watch OS 3 is out now.
Apple Watch OS 3 features
The big update in Watch OS 3 is in the optimization of your Watch, which makes it faster than ever before. Apple wants to have your apps respond instantly and have all the information you need before you even look at it.
Apps will now pre-load information in the background and some apps are seven times faster than on Watch OS 2.
There’s a new dock section on the Watch that allows you to access your favorite apps even quicker than before.
It will include options such as battery, alarm and airplane mode, but you can also switch these out for your own favorite apps. Just press the side button on the Watch for the dock to open.
There’s also another feature called SOS for when you’re in trouble and need the emergency services. It works by you holding down the side button when you’re in a dangerous situation.
It’ll ring the emergency services if your watch is connected to your phone or use the internet if you’re on Wi-Fi.
SOS will work around the world, no matter what country you are in.
It even connects with a new emergency ID feature now included in Watch OS 3 that allows you to keep your medical details on your person, rather than just on your phone.
Apple Watch OS 3 Activity
The exercise based Activity app on Watch OS is going to get an upgrade as well. The focus is on competition with a feature called Activity sharing.
If you swipe to the right of your activity ring it’ll show your family and friends details too so you can start competitions.
It means you can send your heart rate to one of your friends or send a message with running details attached to show off your kickass workout.
Activity now also supports those in a wheelchair too. Apple has applied a number of major changes to the way Activity works on the Apple Watch for those who are in a wheelchair.
The notification “time to stand” will also switch to “time to roll” as well as the addition of two specific workout modes within the Activity app.
Apple Watch OS 3 Breathe
Breathe is a new app to help you calm down after a stressful day at work – it’ll give you breathing exercises to try to help relax you. You can set up smart notifications to remind you to use the app and you have the choice of doing workouts from one to five minutes long.
You can even do it with your eyes closed – just switch on haptic feedback and the buzzes will tell you when to breathe in and out.
Apple Watch OS 3 messages
Ways to respond to your messages have changed in Watch OS 3 by including easy to see shortcuts for voice messages and emoji to make it even quicker to reply. That’s followed by your smart replies that sit just below the message you’re reading.
There’s also a new feature called Scribble that allows you to write a single letter on your watch at a time that will then build into a word. This will work in a number of different languages too – you could even scribble in Chinese.
Apple Watch OS 3 faces
It’s quicker than ever to switch your watch face – now it just takes a single swipe. You can even add elements such as the weather on top of your photo watch faces.
Plus Minnie Mouse in now coming to Apple Watch too to join the popular Mickey watch face.
Read our WWDC 2016 live blog for all the latest newsWhat we want to see
With the limited information that’s available out of the way, we’ve put together the wish-list that we’re hoping Apple will fulfil when WWDC rolls around on Monday 13 June.
Less reliance on an iPhone
Right now the Apple Watch is heavily dependent on the iPhone – take it out without your phone and its capabilities are limited. Sure, the new software brings native app support, but there’s far more to come.
Without adding a SIM card slot, which Apple could with the Apple Watch 2, but not with the Watch OS 3 software, there’s a limit to how much you’ll be able to do with the Apple Watch independent of your phone, but there’s certainly room for improvement.
Fortunately, it looks like this is something Apple is working on, as the company has told developers that their apps need to work without an iPhone.
That’s a good start, especially as Watch OS 2 also enables the Apple Watch to connect to Wi-Fi on its own, but hopefully with Watch OS 3 Apple will go further still, perhaps ensuring that apps don’t just work from your wrist but that they’re as full-featured as possible – it’s what Android Wear is doing, after all.
A more intuitive interface
Making an interface for such a tiny screen is no easy task, so it’s not surprising that Watch OS isn’t quite as slick or intuitive as iOS – especially as it’s still only on version 2 – but we want to see some significant improvements for Watch OS 3.
That could come in the form of more gesture controls, the ability to customize what the hardware buttons do or even a complete rethink of the layout. We’re sure we’ll see some improvements of some kind, but hopefully they’ll be big.
Third-party watch faces
Although Apple allows third-party apps on the Apple Watch it doesn’t currently allow third-party faces, which means you’re stuck with the ones Apple’s designed. Many of them are very stylish and well thought-through, but a watch should be an extension of your own style, so having more options can only be a good thing.
If Apple opens up the SDK to third-party developers there could soon be millions of additional options to choose from, allowing you to make your watch as unique as you are.
The Apple Watch is significantly less powerful than the iPhone 6S, so performance isn’t as slick, despite the fact that the apps used on it are far more limited.
Apple can’t make the existing hardware any more powerful, but it can hopefully optimize the software to run more smoothly on it. Along with improvements to the interface that could help the Apple Watch feel as slick as we’d expect an Apple product to.
Totally hands-free operation
Prodding and swiping a tiny screen isn’t ideal and while we don’t want Apple to remove that as an option we would like to be able to go completely hands-free too.
For that Siri is going to need to get a bit smarter and more versatile, understanding more commands and being able to carry out any action that can currently be done by hand. That way if your hands are full, you’re driving, or you just don’t fancy squinting at all the little icons you’ll still be able to fully interact with the watch – far more than now.
We don’t see this happening, but if Watch OS 3 was fully compatible with Android phones that could hugely expand its appeal. Given the limited functionality Android Wear offers when paired with an iPhone it could make it even more versatile than Google’s wearable rival.
With apps now running on it independent of a smartphone one of the technical hurdles has been overcome, but widening support isn’t in line with Apple’s walled-garden approach to hardware and software, so this is one wish that probably won’t be granted.
Better battery life
One of the biggest issues with the Apple Watch and indeed most smartwatches is that they need charging every one to two days.
Apple isn’t likely to be able to boost the life too much without physically jamming a new battery pack in there, but with clever software tweaks it might be able to make the most of the battery it’s already got.
We’re expecting interface and performance improvements, so battery life improvements as well don’t seem too far-fetched, but the difference will probably be measured in hours, not days.
A better Workout app
The Apple Watch in its current form is never going to replace a dedicated sports watch or fitness tracker, but there are some things Apple can do, such as improving its strangely limited Workout app.
Right now, while you can track a number of different activities, the options it gives you within that are fairly limiting. If you’re running for example you can have it tell you when you’ve beaten your best time, calorie burn or distance, but we want route maps on runs, more workout options and more detailed metrics.
On the subject of fitness, it would be great if Watch OS 3 improved the accuracy of the heart rate monitor too, though that’s likely more a hardware issue than a software one – Apple Watch 2 anyone?