After a slight delay due to some necessary last-minute bug squashing, WatchOS 2 is now available for all Apple Watch owners.
Apple’s wearable has a boatload of new features in WatchOS 2, and I’ve done my damnedest to outline them for you below.
WatchOS 2 enables Apple Watches to become more customizable through a series of new watch faces.
The first are time-lapse photos, which Apple created for six cities — New York, Shanghai, Paris, Hong Kong, London, and Mack Lake. The 24 hour time-lapse photos changed based on the user’s time of day.
Apple has also included Photo faces in WatchOS 2. Users can either select one photo (stored in their Favorites folder), or enable the Apple Watch to scroll through numerous pictures in a single album.
The stock Apple Watch complications — tiny views of information shown in the Watch faces — only included select native Watch apps. In WatchOS 2, additional complications will be available for use, as developers enable them in their apps. As of now, there are minimal third-party options available — though, you can expect more to come as devs get the opportunity to update their apps for the new OS.
Tiny FaceTime and short-duration video clips — such as Vine — are now available to be viewed on the Apple Watch. I tested this out with a Vine clip, and the video playback was quite smooth and clear; though, there’s only so much one can expect with video on such a tiny screen.
Use your Apple Watch as an alarm clock? Then the new Nightstand mode in WatchOS 2 is for you.
Just as it sounds (and as the image above shows), charging the Apple Watch on its side will give owners a bedside alarm clock, complete with snooze mode (Digital Crown). The side button will dismiss alarms, and the screen will illuminate any time it is touched.
Apple Watch WiFi
While the Apple Watch was shipped with its own WiFi chip, before WatchOS 2, the wearable needed to be in-range of the user’s iPhone to access the Interwebs.
Not so any longer; now, conceivably, the Apple Watch can connect to previously-joined WiFi networks without the iPhone being nearby.
While I’ve been unable to test this at this point (my iPhone is perfectly capable of tethering to the Apple Watch no matter where I go in my apartment), tetherless WiFi should grant Watch users the capability to access email, weather, Instagram, and more without needed to keep their iPhones close.
As with text messages, Apple Watch users will now be able to respond to emails through dictation, canned responses (which can be edited on the iPhone app), or emojis.
As mentioned here previously, one of the most exciting features of WatchOS 2 is the ability for developers to create apps for the Watch that do not rely on being tethered to a user’s iPhone. This will not only potentially cut down on the lag time for apps — since they won’t be communicating with the phone — but also allow them to take advantage of WiFi capabilities also introduced in the new OS.
WatchOS 2 also gives devs access to the Watch’s sensors — including the mic and heart rate indicator.
As of yet, there are only a few apps that have been updated for WatchOS 2; though, expect more in the weeks & months to come.
Although not entirely useful (though, again, give it time), Time Travel in WatchOS 2 makes use of the mostly-aesthetic Digital Crown.
Time Travel enables users to go backwards or forwards into their day to view calendar events, weather, and other time-specific information. Time Travel will, conceivably, be useful for such things as news and Twitter posts at some point; though, again, its functionality currently is mostly limited to native apps.
Other WatchOS 2 Features
Additional WatchOS 2 features include the ability to add even more friends via Groups, more colorful sketches, and transit information for select cities via Apple Maps (introduced in iOS 9).
Siri also gets more useful in WatchOS 2, with the “Hey, Siri” command integrated into Fitness apps and glances. Watch owners can say “Hey, Siri, show me the Weather glance” with the Watch awake to have the digital assistant pull up weather immediately.
Apple Pay also gets a boost from iOS 9 and Watch OS 2, as the new Wallet app allows for storing even more credit cards directly on the Apple Watch itself, including store CC and loyalty cards.
Finally, Apple included an important security feature into WatchOS 2 — Activation Lock. With the Apple Watch connected to iCloud, activating the wearable will require Apple ID and password once reported lost (which can be done directly from the iPhone app itself). Activation Lock was much-needed on the Apple Watch, as previously, any lost Watch could simply be re-paired to a new phone once the simple 4-digit passcode was breached.
(All images within courtesy of Apple)