Michael Simon reveals the operating system’s new features
The Apple Watch might still feel like a new product, but its already on the fourth version of watchOS. And each one has brought some pretty major changes. Version 2 brought nightstand mode and third-party complications, and version 3 introduced the dock, a new Breathe app, and better overall navigation.
However, watchOS 4, unveiled at the Worldwide Developers Conference keynote in San Jose, is more of a maintenance release than a full new version.
Still, it brings some cool new ways to interact with our favourite apps and add a little fun to the screen we see the most. Here’s everything we know so far about watchOS 4, including a few new features that we can’t wait to try.
Apple Watch is a new enough product so no models are excluded from the new version. Whether you own one of the originals, or a Series 1 or a Series 2 watch, you’ll be able to install watchOS 4 when it arrives.
Apple will release watchOS in the autumn, most likely on the same day as it releases iOS 11 for download.
Unlike iOS and OS X, Apple hasn’t previously offered a public beta program for watchOS. It’s possible that changes this year, but we have no reason to think it will. So to try it out before the masses you’ll need to sign up for a developer program membership for £99 per year. However, if you do decide to go that route, keep in mind that Apple doesn’t allow you to downgrade to an earlier watchOS version without taking it into an Apple Store for repair.
watchOS 4 FAQ Has the navigation changed?
A little. The Dock that holds your apps your apps now scrolls vertically rather than horizontally, making better use of the Digital Crown. You can also choose to ditch
the honeycomb home screen with a new list view that will simply display a vertical list of your installed apps.
What’s the Siri face?
The biggest change to watchOS 4 is the addition of a few new faces, most notably a Siri face. Built for people who crave a steady stream of information on their wrists, the Siri face will automatically display the most relevant info based on the time, your location, and your routine. For example, if you usually drive to work at 8am, it will display the traffic, or if you use HomeKit to shut your lights at night, that button will appear at bedtime. Additionally, you can rotate the crown to cycle through the various cards. Whenever you raise your wrist, the face will dynamically update with the latest bit of relevant info, and if you need to know something that isn’t displayed, you can also tap the new Siri complication to ask a question.
What’s the Kaleidoscope face?
Where the Siri face offers always-changing information designed to keep you organized and motivated, the kaleidoscope face offers always-changing pattern designed to keep you happy. Just like those long tubes that you held up to the light and rotated to change shape, the new kaleidoscope face uses your photos to create a circular pattern that constantly moves and changes throughout the day.
Are there really Toy Story faces?
Yup. Woody, Jesse, and Buzz join Mickey and Minnie as Apple Watch faces, but there’s a twist. Instead of
using their hands to show the hour and minute, the faces feature a simple digital clock and date and let the characters frolic around it. And each time you raise your wrist to check the time, you’ll get a random little animated vignette.
Enough about faces. Tell me about fitness.
Apple has tweaked the Activity app to make us a little more likely to use it. Achievement progress alerts will let you know if you’re close to accomplishing a goal or tell you what you can do to match yesterday’s numbers. And there will also be personalized monthly challenges that inspire you to push a little harder. And in case you need a little more motivation, there’s also a cooler animation when you close all three rings and even bigger celebrations for hitting monthly milestones.
Has the Workout app changed too?
Apple has made the Workout app easier to use with a new interface that puts a quick start button front and centre. Also upgraded is the app’s swimming capabilities, adding distance and pace trackers as well as auto sets, so if you’re swimming laps it will recognize when you rest at the edge of the pool. There’s also a new option for High Intensity Interval Training and the ability to swipe to add a new workout to the same session. And you’ll also be able to set a playlist to start automatically when your workout begins.
What if I work out at a gym?
If you use gym equipment such as a StairMaster or treadmill to burn your calories, you can now tap into all of data inside it using a new two-way data exchange feature will keep your metrics in sync. Apple has
partnered with top brands, including LifeFitness, Cybex and Matrix, to equip their machines with NFC readers that will seamlessly sync to your watch.
Any changes to music?
The Music app now automatically syncs music based on your tastes, and navigation is now album-art based, letting you use the crown to scroll through your songs like on a tiny digital jukebox. And if you’re a playlist junkie, you can now send more than one to your watch.
Any new apps?
For now, all we know is that there will be a new Apple News app for the watch, which will display headlines on the Siri face and let you save articles for later reading on your phone.
What’s this about a flashlight?
Apple is adding a new flashlight icon to the Control Center that will let you see in the dark or use it as a blinking safety light when cycling. Apple hasn’t shown us exactly how it will work, but presumably it will put a bright white screen on the watch for illumination.
Any improvements to Apple Pay?
With watchOS 4, you can send payments to your friends right on your watch. You’ll be able to send money to anyone in your contacts using Apple Pay, and they’ll receive the money in their new Apple Pay Cash account. Then, they’ll be able to transfer it to their bank account or keep the funds around for future Apple Pay purchases.