On Monday, Apple at its annual developer’s conference WWDC also made some announcements about the Apple Watch. The wearable is getting some significant updates, and among other things, it will soon be a lot harder to steal, thanks to a feature called Activation Lock. The watchOS is also getting an overhaul – watchOS 2 – and the Apple Watch is also getting native third party applications.
The new watchOS 2 version will be available as a free update to Apple Watch users this fall – as before, the Apple Watch requires an iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, or iPhone 6 Plus running iOS 8.2 or later versions.
Some of the new features that come with watchOS 2 include Activation Lock, which lets users secure their Apple Watch with their Apple ID, preventing others from wiping or activating the device if it is lost or stolen. Nightstand Mode turns the Apple Watch into a bedside alarm clock, with the Digital Crown and side button serving as snooze and off buttons.
Another feature in watchOS 2 is the ability to use loyalty cards and other merchant rewards issued by stores with Apple Pay, and add them to the Wallet. It also brings support for Transit including walking directions in Maps, though this information is limited to select cities, including Berlin, Chicago, London, New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, Washington DC, and over 300 cities in China.
A new feature for the Apple Watch also unveiled at WWDC is Time Travel – users can scroll through events in the future and past using the Digital Crown, seeing upcoming meetings, weather, and information from third party apps such as upcoming flights. This sounds a little like the timeline feature on the Pebble Time watch.
You can also now respond to mails using dictation, smart replies, and emoji, and you can create multiple screens for friends, where you can add up to 12 people you can contact quickly using your watch. Users can now also utilise Siri to start workouts, and launch Glances.
Aside from this, watchOS 2 lets you turn your favourite photo into a new watch face or view pictures from your favourite photo album with every raise of your wrist with the new Photo and Photo Album watch faces. With the Time-Lapse watch face, you can choose from a selection of time-lapse videos shot over 24 hours in iconic locations including New York City, London or Shanghai.
The most significant announcement though, might have been WatchKit for watchOS 2. This will allow third party developers to create native applications for the Apple Watch. WatchKit also gives developers access to key hardware like the Digital Crown, Apple’s Taptic Engine, heart rate sensor, accelerometer, and microphone. New APIs also enable audio and video playback and animation. The ClockKit framework will also allow developers to represent their data on the watch face, and allows them to create their own complications. Access to HealthKit for the Apple Watch has also been given to developers. The iOS 9 SDK beta including WatchKit for watchOS 2 is available from Monday for developers.
By giving developers access to these tools, Apple is enabling significantly richer experiences on the Watch, and Apple gave some examples of how this would work. For example, Strava can more accurately track your heart rate while on a ride or run using data from the heart rate sensor and accelerometer; Insteon can give customers more precise controls to dim their lights or control the temperature with the Digital Crown; Volkswagen owners can get haptic feedback when their car door has been locked; WeChat includes audio messaging using the microphone; and Vine can host and play video right in the app.