The Apple Watch may be the leader in the smartwatch space, much like how Android surpassed iOS, but Android Wear will almost definitely outnumber Apple's watchOS, seeing that the Android Wear OS is available to more device makers. That said, the new watchOS 3 from Apple has brought in some new features that could give Android Wear a run for its money.
The Apple Watch came out when wearables were all about fitness, and naturally, it came with the regular set of fitness components. However, with watchOS 2 fitness wasn't really a priority, and the Apple Watch was viewed as more of an accessory or a replacement for a Swiss watch. But, with watchOS 3, fitness takes the proverbial wheel. Users can now keep track of their activities using an exclusive watch face that will represent, in three concentric rings, time spent standing, time spent exercising and time spent moving.
Apple has also opened up the Apple Watch to interact with third-party fitness apps. Users can work out with just as much enthusiasm at the gym wearing the Apple Watch and leave their smartphone in their lockers. At the end of the workout, the data collected by the watch can be synced with the user's primary fitness iPhone app and all is well again.
Another addition that Apple has brought to watchOS 3 is the Breathe app that, with its expanding and contracting flower and haptic feedback, helps users meditate and relax.
Finally, watchOS 3 makes the Apple Watch more friendly to the differently-abled. Wheelchair pushes now get factored in while calculating daily calorie burn and the "Time to Stand" notification has been replaced with "Time to Roll." The Apple Watch is also reported to include a couple of wheelchair-specific workouts.
Swipe up for a control centre now
With watchOS 2, swiping up would bring up Glances from where users could look at summaries of their most used apps. Now, it brings up Control Centre, a feature that iPhone users would find familiar. The Control Centre gives users access to all their most-used settings.
Then what about Glances, one might ask. Glances has made way for Dock, which can be accessed by clicking the side button. This serves the same function â€” it brings up all the most-used apps, which users can cycle through by swiping across the screen.
The new OS for the Apple Watch has a few additional watch faces. For starters, Mickey Mouse now has Minnie to keep him company. The home screen, the one with the bubbles has also been pushed to the back and can only be accessed by pressing the digital crown. Apple has also introduced the ability to add complications to the watch faces in the watchOS 3 update. This basically means that users can put their pedometer, the weather update and the time on the watch face, while keeping a photograph as the background.
Switching between watch faces has also changed with watchOS 3. WatchOS 2 required users to "firmly press" the screen first, but now watch faces can be cycled through by swiping the screen edge to edge.
Faster app launches
The biggest problem that watchOS 2 faced was how long apps took to launch. The problem stemmed from the fact that the apps wouldn't run natively on the Apple Watch itself. Back in April, Apple insisted that the apps should run on the device and not serve as extensions to their iOS counterparts and that seems to have made a world of a difference.
The Verge reported that when Apple showed off third-party apps on the watchOS 2 at last year's World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC), the apps took seven seconds to load. With watchOS 3, it was reported to have been improved exponentially.
With iOS 10, Apple announced that Messages will be getting a massive overhaul and the additions have made their way to the watchOS as well. The watchOS 3's Messages app now has everything from replying with stickers, invisible ink, emoji and even setting off fireworks or making it rain confetti.
In addition, users no longer need to tap the "Reply" button before dictating a response or selecting a response from a set of pre-written ones. Also, a new function called Scribble has been added to the Apple Watch, with which users can trace the shapes of alphabets with their fingers to type out their messages. The function is reported to work with English and Mandarin in watchOS 3.
With the watchOS 3, Apple seems to have fixed everthing that was wrong with watchOS 2 and taken a logical step forward. As Mashable notes, watchOS 3 is more like the second iteration of the watchOS platform.
The watchOS will be out this fall, and going by Apple's history when it comes to new launches, one can expect the release date to be set sometime in September. Maybe Apple will launch the Apple Watch 2 with it.