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Kevin Lynch, Apple’s Vice President of Technology took to the stage at WWDC to announce the new features coming to the first big Apple Watch update, called watchOS 2. Lynch says it’s a “giant moment” reminiscent of the release of the App Store seven years ago.
Here’s a quick guide to what to expect in a few months time.
Siri and Mail
There have been some big improvements to Siri, including the ability to start Workouts hands-free and bring up glances or information directly. You will now be able to respond to emails right from the watch in the same way that the Messages app works – about time!
Siri will also be deeply integrated with many new iOS9 features, like the Transit data coming to Apple Maps.
The update will see an increase in the number of watch face templates available, including the ability to make custom watch faces from your own photos – like desktop wallpapers, but for your wrist. There will even be a feature that shows a random photo from your favorite album every time you look at the watch.
Another new face is the time-lapse option, which will display a cityscape from your chosen big city – including London, New York, Shanghai etc. – at the correct time of day.
watchOS 2 will include a new feature called Time Travel (Flux Capacitor sold separately), which uses the digital crown to scroll forwards and backwards through time from the watch face, updating your Complications to display changes to the time, weather, events and so on. It can be used to give a full preview of your plans without having to check separate apps for information.
Health and Fitness
There will be a few improvements on this side of things, including the Health app coming straight to the watch so you can check your data without having to reach for your iPhone. There will also be new, 3D achievements for passing certain goals, which can be shared socially.
The big reveal is that it will be possible to make native watch apps – currently all Apple Watch apps run on your iPhone and sync the data to the watch via bluetooth. This new update will mean that developers can start building apps that run solely on the wearable, hopefully meaning less bluetooth-related lag.
Apple are also providing access to HealthKit and HomeKit to developers, as well as the ability to take advantage of the Taptic Engine and Digital Crown. There will be support for developers to start making their own third-party Complications (watch face widgets to show snippets of information).
Third-party apps will now be able to record audio from the built-in mic, as well as play back audio and video right on the watch. This wasn’t possible in watchOS until now. All this means hopefully a glut of more creative and useful apps to come later this year.
Users will be able to have more than 12 friends set to the quick communication shortcut, with the ability to add custom photos from the Apple Watch itself.
A new ‘nightstand’ mode turns the watch into a bedside alarm clock. Turn it on its side when plugged in to charge overnight and it will display the time like a digital clock, and use the two side buttons for snooze and wake in the morning.
watchOS 2 is available to developers immediately. The rest of us will have to wait until this Fall to see these new features.