I’ve had an Original Apple Watch for over a year. I wrote about it here. Software updates, specifically, WatchOS 2, improved the experience from the time I originally wrote about it. Application load times improved but that said, running almost any third-party app was at best, a frustrating exercise.
Enter WatchOS 3.
WatchOS 3 is a significant rethinking of the Apple Watch user experience. While not going back to square one, they have rethought many aspects of the Watch experience; The side button has been repurposed from a messenging shortcut (which felt a bit like Google+ circles, to instead pull up a “dock” of commonly used applications (of your choice) that are regularly updating in the background. This makes using the watch faster than pulling my phone out of my pocket an finding the app. Certainly it makes it faster than grabbing my phone from across the room.
This does however come at a cost to battery life. Battery life on the original Apple Watch clearly suffers with the early releases of WatchOS 3. This will hopefully improve with ongoing updates.
WatchOS 3 focuses the device on two strengths – messaging and fitness.
You can now reply to messages from your watch by scribling on the screen. While you would not want to write a long response this way, it is a convienent way to quickly reply without having to default to the pre-configured responses.
Fitnes tracking has been greatly enhanced. More metrics and more activities are built in. For those of us who swim, The workout app and Health apps now track both pool (lap) and open water swimming. Swimming however is not supported on the original watch.
In additon, there are several new watch faces, additional customization and control (via the iPhone Apple Watch app), Additional apps including an Apple Homekit app (Which still has limited device support – a post for another day) and the ability to unlock a Mac running MacOS X (v10.12).
Apple Watch Series 2
Along with the release of WatchOS 3, Apple released three new versions of the Apple Watch, Series 1 includes a faster processor than the original Apple Watch at a lower price entry point. Series 2, which includes the faster processor, built in GPS and water resistance to 50 meters. The battery capacity of both new watches is increased and the chip more efficent than the original watch. A Nike co-branded Series 2, adds some Nike specific apps and look.
The faster processor is noticable. Applications launch from the dormant state much more quickly. The built in GPS in the Series 2, is designed to allow you to workout without your iPhone present and still collect accurate metrics and mapping of activies. Water resistance and screen locking allow you to officially swim with the watch.
In addition to the faster processor, the battery has been made (slightly) larger. Battery life on the new watch is defintely better than that of the original device. If this is because of hardware/software optimized for the new WatchOS and/or because the battery is larger, I am not sure.
What’s still missing?
This is still a “young” product category. There are still features and capabilities that when (likely) added will greatly impove the Watch productline. For example, cellular service. As long as the watch depends upon the iPhone being nearby, it is an accessory, More akin to wireless headphones, than a stand-alone device.
While the watch tracks heartrate, how about blood pressure, sugar levels, etc?. Medical tracking is an area with tremendous potential if done right.
Finally, maybe a nit, and not just Watch related, can we get some additional “Wake phrases” for Siri? The Watch is the perfect hands-free device. Close at hand, not in a pocket or on the desk but, if I say “Hi Siri” My watch trys to answers, my iPhone trys to answers and my iPad trys to answers. Also, since the Watch does have a speaker. It would be great if Siri used it instead of making me look at the watch face.
I upgraded because the swim tracking features made the update worth while to me. I also “downgraded” from the stainless steel to the aluminum body and went for the larger watch model which is certainly for me, easier to read and easier to interact with. If not for the swimming features, I would have stuck with my original watch (which has found a new home in the family). Like many Apple products, skipping a generation often makes sense when upgrading.