Apple released its first major update for the Apple Watch on Monday. It’s an overall improvement that lays the groundwork for better experiences.
The watchOS 2 update includes some new watchfaces to choose from and introduces third-party complications, where app makers can give you bite-size portions of information right on your watch face, like when it’s going to rain or when to leave your house to get to work on time.
Third-party complications will certainly improve some people’s experiences with the Apple Watch as more app makers build onto this feature. But the biggest change in watchOS 2 is the debut of native third-party apps.
Before the update, any Apple Watch apps not built by Apple were pretty dang slow. They took way too long to load, which pretty much defeated the purpose of accessing apps on your wrist in the first place. For that length of time — between 10 and 15 seconds — I might as well take out my phone.
The promise of native third-party apps was to make everything speedier, and to also let developers access more features within the Apple Watch, like the microphone and heart rate sensor. Though we haven’t seen many developers take advantage of the watch’s sensors yet, apps are definitely speedier.
I tried one of the few native Apple Watch apps available today: Dark Sky, the hyperlocal weather and radar app that gives you extremely detailed information about the weather and climate. On the Apple Watch, Dark Sky can tell you the current temperature with highs and lows for the day, send notifications when it’s going to rain, or show you the forecast for the next week.
Prior to the Apple Watch update, Dark Sky took roughly 10 seconds to load.
After the Apple Watch update, Dark Sky loads in roughly 3-4 seconds. It often reloads when I flick my wrist to check the time, which takes another few seconds.
I also tried iTranslate, another third-party app that’s gone native after watchOS 2. That was much snappier than Dark Sky, probably because it didn’t need to use any location data. The app loaded in a second or two, and the dictation feature launched within 3-4 seconds. Again, this app used to load much slower before the update — around 8-10 seconds total.
There aren’t many native third-party apps right now, so it’s possible future apps could be even quicker to load.
But does any of this change the actual experience of owning an Apple Watch? Is it a more worthwhile buy than it was before?
As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m still not sold on wearables as a category.
The Apple Watch is probably best in class right now, but that doesn’t say much either. It’s extremely good at delivering notifications to your wrist, but it has yet to change my life. That said, it absolutely has changed the lives of some people, helping them lose weight or alerting them to serious medical conditions.
The Apple Watch is much better with watchOS 2, but these improvements probably won’t change your mind about the watch — if you loved it before, you’ll love it more now. If you didn’t like the Apple Watch before, its newfound speediness and third-party complications might intrigue you, but probably won’t entice you to spend $US400 or more.
More than anything, it feels like watchOS 2 creates a better foundation for the future of this device. Third-party apps felt way too limited before the update, loading too slowly with their basic, kludgy designs. Now that apps can actually live on your Apple Watch, not on your iPhone, I expect apps will get even faster and more developers will create complications for quick information at a glance — a major strength of the Apple Watch.
Hopefully these improvements will lead to some unique software innovations, because right now, all the best Apple Watch apps are made by Apple. If you own an iPhone, you know this won’t last.
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