While Apple Watch and watchOS 1 was a solid first step towards seriously addressing the smartwatch market, it was obvious to me that it was still in need of development. Apple had come far, but still had far to go. With watchOS 3, we’re finally starting to see the refinements needed to make watchOS truly mass market, with focuses on responsiveness and adds a fair number of new features to help make the overall user experience more compelling.

At an OS level, the rather painful loading screens seen in previous iterations of watchOS are now dead, which is a fairly massive improvement. I’m not sure what architectural changes happened here yet, but it’s likely that offloading more compute onto the watch and periodic refresh of app data on the watch, along with more advanced multitasking is a fairly critical part of making all of this happen. It’s likely that this will have a power impact, but given the user experience improvements I think this is likely to be an acceptable trade-off.

Other than this architectural change, there have been a number of changes to the UI. Rather than overloading Glances with both a control center and various other glances, it looks like the two have been separated to better mesh with how iOS works. Rather than placing contacts on the side button, it looks like a Dock for apps launches instead. Other UI changes include a simple swipe to change the watchface on the fly and improved notification handling to make interactions like replying to a message from the watch faster than before.

On the feature side, apps like Activity now feature a multiplayer component by allowing you to share your activity data with friends and family. Activity also supports wheelchair mode to allow for more widespread usability, and has a whole host of new algorithms designed to properly track activity for those that are wheelchair-bound. There’s also a Breathe app, which is supposed to make it easier for people to do deep breathing/meditative breathing, along with Home for remote control of smart home devices. There’s also support for in-app Apple Pay, Mac unlock with Watch proximity, and SOS mode to automatically call emergency services with a long hold of the side button. There’s also improved workouts, with the ability to set no time limit for a workout and automatic workout pausing based upon motion detection.

Overall, watchOS 3 is starting to feel like it’s approaching what I really want from a smartwatch in terms of functionality and polish, and I think with Apple Watch 2 or 3 and maybe watchOS 4 or 5 we’ll finally see a smartwatch that I can whole-heartedly recommend for the first time, although it’s definitely possible that a company other than Apple may pull this off first. WatchOS 3 will be available in beta this summer, and will release to all Apple Watches this fall.

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  • Azryder - Saturday, June 18, 2016 - link

    Seriously? You just turned the Apple watch into a political discussion. Oh please save me!!!
  • WinterCharm - Tuesday, June 14, 2016 - link

    That seems to be just you. I've seen tons of young people wearing them where I live. They re also really popular with the doctors and nurses I work alongside.
  • mdriftmeyer - Saturday, June 18, 2016 - link

    The integrated Health features have created the earlier adopters as those 50+. More and more fitness solutions will draw that dynamic down to the 25-50 age range when Apple releases the second revision of the Apple Watch.
  • mdriftmeyer - Saturday, June 18, 2016 - link

    Combine the new watchOS 3.0 features as the Smart Home/Car integration expand then people will start to see the n-tier capacities built into the Apple Ecosystem, thus they'll buy the new watch this Fall.
  • Impulses - Thursday, June 23, 2016 - link

    I've seen a few 40-something and 50-somethings here with Watch, not to mention plenty of older celebrities that wear it whether for the look or advertising (Colbert I think?). Can't say any of my 30-something friends have one...

    PR is a pretty weird space tho, I'm willing to bet iPhones still outnumber Android devices here, which makes it weirder that I haven't seen more of Watch. Are there public sales numbers on Watch? Curious how it's doing...
  • Impulses - Thursday, June 23, 2016 - link

    Meant Puerto Rico btw, not public relations...
  • Speedfriend - Tuesday, June 14, 2016 - link

    That all looks so ugly. What has happened to Apple, it has totally lost its mojo. The iPhone 6S is the most disappointing phone I have ever bought, unlike the S7 Edge which is incredible
  • Zenofobia - Tuesday, June 14, 2016 - link

    I agree the iPhone 6S is much nicer than the S7 Edge.
  • darwinosx - Tuesday, June 14, 2016 - link

    Not credible.
  • Spunjji - Tuesday, June 14, 2016 - link

    It's still ugly, it's still too expensive and the UI is still really quite startlingly ugly. :/

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