What we’d like to see from watchOS 4

The Ap­ple Watch is al­ready the king of the smart­watch moun­tain, but a few soft­ware tweaks would make it even bet­ter, ar­gues Susie Ochs

iPad&iPhone user - - CONTENTS -

With re­ports that Google Maps, Ama­zon and eBay had qui­etly pulled Ap­ple Watch ver­sions of their iOS apps, the news made us think, “Wait, Google Maps had an Ap­ple Watch app?” (Don’t worry, it’s com­ing back.) The truth is, we don’t re­ally use Ap­ple Watch apps. Look­ing at the list right now, this writer has ex­actly 50 third--party Ap­ple Watch apps avail­able, but just four in­stalled. That’s 8 per­cent.

Look­ing at this list, we’re sure some of the apps we don’t have in­stalled are well-made and do cool things. We just don’t want to use them, be­cause they’re on my wrist. Hold­ing up our wrist to use an app just isn’t a good ex­pe­ri­ence a lot of the time, although glanc­ing at our wrist is just right.

It only takes a glance to see if a Slack no­ti­fi­ca­tion needs our at­ten­tion or not. Same to check the tem­per­a­ture

out­side, which is a com­pli­ca­tion on the watch face. In both of these ex­am­ples, we don’t even have to touch the screen. Raise arm, look, lower arm.

So in the next it­er­a­tion of watchOS, we hope Ap­ple em­pow­ers app devel­op­ers to make their ex­pe­ri­ences so fluid that we won’t be able to help load­ing a few more apps, and us­ing them a lot more faith­fully. Here are some things we think might help.

Soup up Siri

The Ap­ple Watch could be the ul­ti­mate Siri de­vice. In the­ory, it can do ev­ery­thing we’d like the Siri Speaker to do. (Okay, it can’t play mu­sic, but it can stream mu­sic to other speak­ers.) But in prac­tice, we’d rather use my iPhone for Siri be­cause it’s way faster and just has more skills.

But if Siri could get a per­for­mance boost in the next ver­sion watchOS, it would go a long way. Right now it’s one of the slow­est ways we have of in­ter­act­ing with my HomeKit lights, so let’s start with a boost of speed.

Siri should also sup­port ev­ery­thing from the wrist as it does on all your other de­vices. We can ask our Siri Re­mote to search Net­flix or play a movie from our li­brary. But we can’t ask Siri on our Ap­ple Watch to do those things. The new Ap­ple TV app doesn’t even have an Ap­ple Watch coun­ter­part. And we can ask Siri on our Mac or our iPhone to do a web search, but if we ask our Ap­ple Watch, it says to go get our iPhone (where we have to run the same search again).

Siri on the Ap­ple Watch should be the smartest, best Siri of all, able to switch what de­vice it’s con­trol­ling. (Siri, it’s movie night, so pull up on the TV, dim the lights, and no­tify the kids play­ing Minecraft on their iPad.) We

might not get there in watchOS 4, but any step to­ward that goal would be a step in the right di­rec­tion.

Bet­ter home con­trol

Speak­ing of ubiq­ui­tous con­trol, apps that con­trol HomeKit de­vice are a nat­u­ral for the wrist. We keep the Home app’s com­pli­ca­tion on my watch face, so all our HomeKit lights, scenes, and sen­sors are never more than two taps away. And smart home apps for iOS have been great about sup­port­ing the Ap­ple Watch.

Ap­ple should work with those devel­op­ers to im­prove their tools as well. More in­te­gra­tions be­tween, say, Home and Health could be in­ter­est­ing. Your HomeKit ceil­ing fan could turn on when it knows you’re com­ing home from a run, for ex­am­ple, while stick­ing to tem­per­a­ture-based trig­gers when you’re not.

Fit­ter, hap­pier

One glimpse we got at some­thing Ap­ple could be plan­ning came from an un­likely source – an in­ci­dent re­port about in­juries suf­fered by Ap­ple em­ploy­ees, ob­tained by Giz­modo. Be­sides tan­ta­liz­ing teases about Ap­ple’s much-ru­moured aug­mented re­al­ity glasses, the re­port de­scribed pos­si­ble new track­ing fea­tures for ski­ing and snow­board­ing. A mode that col­lects data on your top speed, runs taken, ver­ti­cal feet skied, and so on could be re­ally fun.

But we’d also like more au­to­matic track­ing of the ex­er­cise we do through­out the day. Fit­bit’s lat­est bands can au­to­mat­i­cally de­tect when you’re run­ning, walk­ing, bik­ing, and so on. Those bands also last a lot longer be­tween charges, mak­ing them more nat­u­ral for sleep track­ing. But the Ap­ple Watch is a de­cent sleep tracker too, so we’d like

it if watchOS 4 had a set­ting that could prompt me an hour or so be­fore bed (or just when­ever we’re sit­ting idle in at our desk for a de­cent stretch) to top off the Ap­ple Watch’s charge. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, a short charg­ing ses­sion or two dur­ing the day is enough to keep the watch go­ing around the clock, since it charges so quickly – and we have the first Ap­ple Watch with a two-year-old bat­tery.

Help not los­ing things

If you swipe up from the Ap­ple Watch’s watch face in watchOS 3, you get a lit­tle Con­trol Cen­ter-like screen that shows your re­main­ing bat­tery life and has but­tons to en­ter Air­plane mode, Theatre mode, Do Not Dis­turb, and so on. One but­ton looks like an iPhone with sound com­ing out of it. Tap it and your paired iPhone will make a sound –

we do this al­most daily when we’ve set our iPhone down some­where in at home and then for­got where we put it.

But we want more. We want the Ap­ple Watch to be able to ping our Siri Re­mote, iPad, Pen­cil, AirPods, even our MacBook. We’d love a Travel mode that could ac­tu­ally no­tify me if my Ap­ple Watch loses Blue­tooth con­tact with any of my other Ap­ple gear, so we know right away if we left our MacBook in the ho­tel desk drawer, or we’re about to wan­der off and leave our iPhone be­hind. We might even leave this mode on all the time, if we could set up ge­ofenced safe zones like our home and of­fice.

The lit­tle things

How about com­pli­ca­tions that sub­tly an­i­mate or change colour when the app has new data? Sup­port for play­ing pod­casts off­line would be very wel­come as well. And of course, any­thing to eke out a lit­tle ex­tra bat­tery life.

Ap­ple will likely pre­view watchOS 4 at WWDC in June, and then roll it out in Septem­ber. Since watchOS 3 did so much to make the Ap­ple Watch feel new again, our ex­pec­ta­tions are high.

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