Apple’s WatchOS 3 will make your Apple Watch faster

Alex Kidman 14 June 2016

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Apple’s adding new watch faces, gestures and the promise of faster app loading.

At its WWDC 2016 keynote, as expected, Apple put the focus squarely on software, with the first (of its many) operating systems to be discussed being WatchOS. As the name suggests, this is the operating system underlying Apple’s popular but pricey Apple Watch. Equally as expected, there was no announced update for WatchOS hardware at the event.

WatchOS 3’s headline feature is faster app loading, according to Apple. The company used the example of sports and Lyft apps to show off considerably faster app launching on the same Apple Watch hardware it launched last year. Even apps that are included as part of Watch faces can be launched via the new Quickstart feature.

On the messaging front, replies are now built into WatchOS automatically without having to press an additional input. There’s also support for what Apple’s calling "Scribble", a feature that allows you to write, character by character, any kind of custom reply you might want.

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Apple WatchOS 3 will also feature new input interfaces including a dock for frequently accessed apps, as well as an edge-to-edge swipe motion to quickly change watch faces. A new Reminders App and Find My Friends facility will also be added to the WatchOS experience.

Another new feature is dubbed SOS, and as the name suggests it's to do with emergency situations. Hold down the digital crown for a period and the Apple Watch will count down before automatically calling emergency services over either mobile or Wi-Fi connections. Apple’s claim is that SOS will work internationally, although it used the US 911 system as the example. After making an emergency call, SOS will also contact any emergency contacts you’ve pre-set, as well as becoming a medical alert bracelet showing off any pre-set conditions you’ve listed on the watch.

On the fitness side, Apple has picked up a trick from the fitness tracker market, adding social sharing features to its existing fitness apps. Those in your Activity List will be shown on your watch at a tap so you can compare and compete, along with inbuilt messages focused around fitness activities. The new Scribble feature is also supported here. Wheelchair users are also supported with WatchOS3, with the fitness apps now able to calculate usage based on the movements of wheelchair fitness enthusiasts.

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Apple will also add a new fitness feature called Breathe. Breathe is designed almost like a meditation app, guiding you through deep breathing exercises for improved health and relaxation.

The developer preview is available for WatchOS today, with Apple claiming general availability for WatchOS users in the US Autumn.

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