WatchOS 3 has arrived. Apple just announced the new version of its smartwatch operating system during the keynote presentation of its Worldwide Developer's Conference. The headline feature is much faster app performance thanks to something called Instant Launch. Apple says that apps will launch up to seven times faster than on watchOS 2. Additionally, Apple has revamped much of the user interface to make it easier to access apps and information and add the ability to write characters with your finger to reply to messages.
The updated interface includes Control Center, which is accessed via a swipe up from the bottom of the display. The side button has been remapped to launch the dock of recent and running apps instead of the contacts menu. Apple has also added a few new watch faces, including a Minnie Mouse version and new one that more prominently shows activity progress. Watch faces can be changed by swiping across the display. The Reminders and Find Friends apps have been redesigned, and third party apps can also now run in the dock area.
The new Scribble feature lets you draw letters on the screen to type out words. It's similar to a feature recently announced for Android Wear.
Dial emergency services with just a tap
A new safety feature lets you call 911 in just a few seconds by holding down the side button. It will dial 911 through the phone's cellular connection or through the watch's Wi-Fi connection if cellular isn't available. Once the call is ended, it will automatically ping emergency contacts to alert them. Apple says that it works internationally and will automatically call the correct emergency help number in whatever country you happen to be in.
Apple says that one of the most common uses for the Apple Watch is fitness tracking and in light of that, has announced a new fitness app for it. The new app lets users connect with others to see activity and progress and send messages and heart rates to others. The activity tracking for wheelchair users has also been greatly improved, with "time to roll" alerts in place of time to stand. The watch can track wheelchair pushes in a variety of ways and will display them in the activity rings.
Another new health app is called Breathe and is designed to encourage relaxation and breathing techniques. It can provide haptic feedback to guide users when their eyes are closed.
For third party apps, Apple is enabling Apple Pay, background processing for fitness apps, native control for the crown, APIs for speaker control, video, and more. Apple says that a developer preview of watchOS 3 is available today with a public release slated for later this fall.