Update: Apple is hosting WWDC 2016 today, and is expected to reveal a new version of its Apple Watch software. Whether that’s a new version of Watch OS 2 or a brand new Watch OS 3 is unclear, but you can check out our live blog to find out the latest.
Despite us being so close to the announcement of what we hope will be Watch OS 3, information is surprisingly thin on the ground – but that hasn’t stopped us speculating about the sorts of things we’re likely to see, or making a wish list of the things we’re hoping for.
So read on for a taste of what we’re likely to get and what we hope to get, along with information on when you’ll be able to actually get the latest version of Watch OS on your wrist.
Cut to the chaseWhat is it? The next version of Apple’s smartwatch operating systemWhen’s it out? Probably September, with a preview in JuneWhat will it cost? Nothing, it’s an upgrade!Apple watchOS 3 release date
Apple previewed Watch OS 2 at WWDC 2015, so we’re expecting to see Watch OS 3 at WWDC 2016, which starts today, June 13.
But while we’ll get a taste of Apple’s new operating system it’s not likely to roll out for another few months, and we expect it to land in September if past form is anything to go by.
Apple watchOS 3 news and rumors
Not much is known about Watch OS 3, but we can take a good guess at some of the changes Apple is likely to make.
For example, Apple will almost certainly try to tweak and optimize performance, so there’s less lag and hopefully also longer battery life. It can’t make the battery bigger with software, but it can make the operating system less of a burden on it.
There’s a good chance that Siri will be improved too. Apple regularly updates its voice assistant, and nowhere is this more vital than in the Apple Watch, where voice commands are a key aspect of operation.
Some of Apple’s apps will likely get their Watch versions improved as well, so we might, for example, see improvements to Maps on your wrist.
It’s also likely that Apple will tweak the interface of Watch OS 3, so that it’s easier to navigate and perhaps gives us more customization options, such as third-party watch faces.
What 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?