Today, Apple kicked off its annual World Wide Developer Conference in San Jose, California. One of the first big announcements: major updates to the Apple Watch. Later this year we’ll be getting watchOS 4, a new version of the native operating system, which has a number of new features and major changes to key apps. Let’s take a look.
Before getting into the details of watchOS 4, Apple CEO Tim Cook reminded the audience that Apple Watch is the number one selling smartwatch globally, as well as the top-ranked smartwatch when it comes to consumer satisfaction. Not really any big surprises there.
Last year’s update, watchOS 3, offered the first major overhaul of the Apple Watch experience. Combined with new hardware in the Apple Watch Series 2, it was a huge improvement. This year’s update is a little more incremental, but not without highlights.
First up, Siri is now getting its own watch face. The new Siri face dynamically updates with the information you need most, depending on time and context. In the morning it might show you your first calendar appointment, while later in the day it could surface your movie ticket or dinner reservation. You can scroll through these bits of info and there’s also a Siri complication displayed right next to the time for easy access. It’s clear that Siri is a big priority for Apple going forward, and having it work well on the Apple Watch is going to be key to making it a long term success.
There are a few other new watch faces too, though they’re more about fun than function. Joining Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse are the less traditional Woody, Jessie, and Buzz from Toy Story, plus there’s a new kaleidoscope face that works off of photos in your library to create trippy visuals on your Apple Watch.
Fitness has become the key use case for the Apple Watch, and there are updates there too. There will be new activity suggestions and coaching options in the activity app. Likewise, there will be options for new monthly challenges based on your past performance. All of this only works with good date, so Apple Watch will also be able to two-way sync with equipment at your local gym to give and get even better data about your workout. Most major equipment manufacturers are onboard, including Life Fitness, Cybex, Technogym, and others, so your chances of actually seeing this in a gym sometime in the near future is pretty good. It will begin rolling out this fall.
Finally, there are updates to how the Apple Watch handles music. With last year’s release of the wireless AirPod headphones, Apple says more people are using their Watch and AirPods without their iPhone as a companion. To make this easier, the Watch’s Music app (tied to Apple Music, by the way) will now automatically save music that you listen to frequently or might want for working out for offline listening. There’s also some interface updates to make the entire app experience better.
A developer preview of watchOS 4 is available today, and it will roll out for free to all Apple Watches sometime this fall. For more, visit Apple online.