Of the software on display during Apple’s WWDC keynote, watchOS was most improved, but then it needed to be. Apple have addressed all the major complaints of watchOS, most notably the slow performance of apps, and the confusing navigation of the operating system.
watchOS 3 will now keep your favourite apps in memory, and load those apps instantly. It was good to see the Apple acknowledge how painfully slow a watch app loads today, and show the instant launch of watchOS 3, which will come to all Apple watches later in the year.
These favourite apps will now be accessible by tapping the side button on the watch. That button is currently reserved as a dialer for favourite contacts — something I’ve never used in all my time wearing an Apple watch.
Speed was the key message across all the changes previewed today. It’s faster to load apps, faster to find them, faster to perform common tasks (like set a timer or view a calendar) and faster to switch between watch faces.
The one feature the Apple watch got so right in the first iterations of watchOS, those addictive little activity rings, also received major improvements. There is now a dedicated activity watch face to track your daily progress, and users can finally compare their own activity against their friends. Comparing and competing against friends is a great motivator, and has kept the Fitbit the fitness leader.
Apple may not rely on focus groups to create their products, but they’ve clearly studied the usage patterns of Apple watch users to see what are the common, simple tasks we want to perform on our watch. watchOS 3 simplifies and speeds up those tasks, making the Apple watch suddenly a lot more compelling.
Peter Wells travelled to WWDC at the invitation of Apple.