Early Impressions of WatchOS 3

As an early adopter of the Apple Watch, I’ve had mixed feelings about my purchase since the day I strapped it on my arm. Sure, it tells time—and makes for an interesting talk-piece, even after all this time—but, it many ways, it has failed to live up to the high standards that Apple products have set.

Mind you, I half expected this. v1.0 products never quite live up to the hype. The problem, though, is that I have always felt the hardware was sound—and still do. Rather, it’s the operating system that has always failed to deliver.

Enter WatchOS 3. Where OS 1 and OS 2 have left much to be desired, WatchOS 3 finally feels like Apple is giving Watch owners the OS they paid for.

And here’s some of the reasons why.

The Dock

Raise your hand if you’re an Apple Watch owner and ever found a practical, regular use for the “contact ring”? Nobody? Me either.

Apple must have heard us, because the infamous “contact ring”, which formerly took up one of two buttons the wearable had to offer, is gone.

In its place is the new Dock. Similar to Glances in WatchOS 1 & 2, the Dock not only stores whichever apps a user chooses, but keeps recently-used apps as well (with the option of easily adding these apps to the Dock permanently). Not only is this useful, but as you’ll read momentarily, it helps deal with another of the Apple Watch’s major drawbacks.

The “3” is for Speed

Though Apple didn’t need to deliver a polished product to become the second-highest grossing watchmaker in the world—which CEO Tim Cook joyously noted at the company’s launch event on September 7th—Apple Watch owners have noted numerous problems with the wearable’s OS; chief amongst them, lag.

WatchOS 3 goes a long way in speeding up the Apple Watch, particularly for apps kept in the wearable’s new Dock. These apps are now consistently refreshing in the background, allowing for quick load times even for non-native applications. And, surprisingly, after two days, I have noticed no real battery drain due to this extra activity, either.

Even for apps not kept in the Dock, load times are markedly improved over WatchOS 2. In the past, my Apple Watch would often put itself to sleep (after 7 seconds) before an app would either load or fail at trying; so far, I haven’t had this problem once, after testing a dozen apps, both native and non.

Control Center 2.0

In WatchOS 3, the Control Center has been upgraded to function precisely as it does on iOS devices; swipe up on the Watch’s face, and battery percentage, airplane mode, silent, Do Not Disturb, find your phone, and the lock function are all readily available. Tapping on the battery percentage indicator also gives users the ability to put the Apple Watch into Power Reserve mode.

What’s more, Apple has made this interface larger for those of us in the aging sect.

Updated Watch App & Faces

The final major changes with WatchOS 3 involve the iPhone’s Watch app—which was relatively useless in previous iterations—and the addition of several new Watch faces to the mix.

The Watch app itself gives users the chance to not only search for new faces, but style them and select their favorites for easy switching on the wearable itself. Also—and this may be my favorite part of the app—the ability to toggle on/off screenshots from the Apple Watch has not been included within the native iPhone app (great news if, like me, you’ve had no less than 2-3 Watch screenshots in your Photo album every day since purchasing the device).

In Summary…

Apple Watch owners need WatchOS 3. There’s no question; even if the highlights above don’t pique your interest, there’s no reason any current Watch owners should be walking around without this upgrade. For speed alone, WatchOS 3 is a must-upgrade.