The Apple Watch has been on wrists for only a few months, but Apple is already coming out with an update to make it more friendly for users and app developers alike. At this year's Worldwide Developers Conference, the company announced watchOS 2, a new version of the Apple Watch's operating system that brings native apps to your wrist and gives developers greater control over the watch's hardware and features.
As WWDC is developer-focused, the biggest news for the event's audience is native apps. WatchOS 2 lets developers make apps that don't require an accompanying iPhone to work. Developers can take full advantage of the Watch's local hardware and software to make native apps; this includes access to important sensors like the heart rate monitor, accelerometer, taptic engine and microphone. For example, developers could make an app that uses the watch's heart rate monitor to display your pulse during a workout in real time.
WatchOS 2 brings other useful features for users. You'll have more ways to customize your Watch face, including choosing a photo from your library to be the background image, or even a photo album for the watch face to shuffle through. You'll also be able to third-party "complications" on the watch face, which are widget-like pieces of information that show you things like your next flight time, the current weather or your next meeting.
A feature called Time Travel makes use of those tidbits of information. You can twist the dial on the side of the Apple Watch to see future events, weather conditions, meetings and more. This is similar to Pebble's new interface on the Time and Time Steel smartwatches, which have buttons that let you change between past, present and future views of your day.
Apple also made some improvements to the watch's fitness tracking capabilities, which until now have been fairly basic. With watchOS 2, you'll be able to count your tracked workouts as part of your overall activity total for the day. Apple is playing catchup with this feature, as most fitness trackers count your exercise towards your daily goal as standard.
However, Apple did integrate Siri into fitness tracking on the watch, letting you say to the watch, "Hey Siri, start a 300 calorie run" and the Watch will begin a workout that completes that goal. This is a nifty feature that will will be especially useful for those who have specific distance or caloric milestones they want to reach.
While the new features aren't groundbreaing, they will likely make the Apple Watch more useful in daily life, not to mention more customizable for. We're excited to test them out when watchOS 2 becomes available to the public this fall. Developers have access to watchOS 2 today.