watchOS 2 – Review

4 minute read

I’ll be honest, watchOS 2 is what should of shipped when Apple Watch was originally released. It includes much-needed features and optimisation enhancements. If you haven’t already got an Apple Watch or you’re still on the fence, watchOS 2 might make you change your mind. The software that shipped with Apple Watch (which I will simply refer to as watchOS) was sluggish and the biggest feature that was missing was native apps. watchOS 2 was due for release on the 16th of September 2015 alongside iOS 9 but due to a critical bug, watchOS 2 was delayed. It was released on the 21st of September 2015, five days later than originally planned.

We will indeed start with native apps. Before watchOS 2, all apps on the Apple Watch actually ran off the iPhone, the watch was essentially a remote display which could be used to display basic information. As a result of this, apps took quite a while to launch and in some instances, didn’t load at all. Now though, in watchOS 2, apps run directly off the Apple Watch. As a result, apps are quicker to launch and you can do much more from the watch itself. As an example, Trivia Crack have made their app native for Apple Watch and not only is it faster, you can actually start and play current games. Developers can also use the components inside Apple Watch including the sensors and the Taptic Engine for their apps.

Next is Time Travel. When you’re on the watch face screen you can turn the Digital Crown to view any upcoming appointments you might have, what the weather will be like in a few hours time and even the remaining battery life. You can even turn the Digital Crown the other way to reverse the time and see any appointments you had during the day.

While on charge and rotated on its side, Apple Watch will turn into an alarm clock. Nightstand Mode (as the name suggests) makes Apple Watch act as a nightstand as well as being able to view the alarms you’ve set. You can look at the time by simply tapping the Digital Crown and if your alarm goes off, you can snooze the alarm by pressing the Digital Crown and press the side button to dismiss it. I have a dock which allows the watch to sit on its side and instead of pressing the Digital Crown to display the time, I can simply nudge my bedside table and the display will light up. Nightstand Mode will only work when Apple Watch is on its side and some users have complained on why it’s limited to that orientation. Hopefully, in a future update, Nightstand Mode will work regardless of how it’s positioned. Users have also queried why the display isn’t always on but the simple reason is that because Apple Watch has an OLED display, every second it’s on, the display is getting darker and darker and wouldn’t do the watch any good.

Next, new watch faces. There are new time-lapse videos of Hong Kong, London, Mack Lake, New York, Shanghai and Paris. The time-lapse videos will represent a different time of day in the city depending on the time of day where you are located. As an example, if it’s night-time, the watch will show a skyline of the city at night. You can also use a photo as your watch face or a photo album. Every time you raise your wrist, a different photo will be displayed. Live Photos are also supported. There are also nine new colours to choose from when customising your watch face and the Modular watch face has a new multicoloured option. Finally, third-party complications. Complications will be available from developers and allow you to do things such as checking your flight status or the charging level of electric cars. These were the two examples Apple showed us at the unveiling of watchOS 2.

Users were a bit confused as to why you could use Siri or pre-defined replies in the Messages app but not in the Mail app, now, in watchOS 2 you can do exactly that. Siri can also start a workout, get transit information and even control devices that are HomeKit enabled. Siri on Apple Watch is very useful. I should use Siri more. It’s very accurate with words and you can even enable Siri just by using your voice. There are also Activity and Workout improvements which include interactive achievements and on-demand weekly Workouts are now saved automatically. You can now have multiple friends’ groups which allows you to have more than what was the limit of 12 people saved for quick access.

Next is Activation Lock. People were bemused that this feature was missing in watchOS but now its been added. In my opinion, Activation Lock is not only one of the best features in watchOS 2, it’s one of the best features available, period. Activation Lock on Apple Watch prevents anyone from activating your watch without your Apple ID and password. If someone tries to restore it, they’ll need to enter the password associated with the Apple ID that was first used when setting up the watch. With watchOS, the watch could simply be restored and could then be used with any other iPhone. As long as you have Find my iPhone enabled and you’re signed into your account on Apple Watch, you’re all set.

watchOS2 is a brilliant update. The biggest features, for me are native apps and Activation Lock. It’s early days yet and there aren’t many native apps available for Apple Watch but that’ll certainly change within the next few months. One app that does work very well on Apple Watch is the Barclays app. You can view your account balance in seconds and use Force Touch to reveal the figure. The watch itself does feel faster and it’s definitely not as slow as it was. I like the multicoloured Modular watch face. I don’t currently have any third-party complications as, similar to native apps, is a new addition so you’ll need to wait a while before your favourite app supports it. watchOS 2 might just push you off the fence and persuade you to go and buy one.