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Review: WatchOS 2 offers timely (and needed) tweaks

Michael deAgonia | Sept. 22, 2015
Native apps, new watch faces make the Apple Watch more useful.

apple watch watchos 2
Credit: Apple

WatchOS 2 is the second version of the operating system that powers the Apple Watch lineup, and it arrives about five months after the wearable's debut -- and five days after it was originally expected. Even though it's been only a few months since supplies caught up with the initial high demand, development of the underlying operating system has continued.

watchos 2.0 update
watchOS 2.0 is downloaded using the Watch app on the iPhone.

The release of the updated watchOS had been timed to coincide with the arrival of iOS 9 -- which makes sense, because the Apple Watch and Apple's iPhones remain intrinsically linked. But a last-minute bug forced Apple to hold off on the release until now. (Note to those updating: You'll need your watch on a charger for the new OS to be installed, and the watch needs to be at least 50% charged.)

Early issues addressed

WatchOS 2 is designed to fix a few of the complaints rightfully aimed at the Apple Watch software and to tweak the feature list to better meet users' needs. These changes should provide faster app launch times, more display-on time so the watch's screen doesn't turn off before an app loads, more comprehensive apps and better standalone functionality.

In fact, I've had my own complaints specifically related to heart rate monitoring when I was using the Workout app for tracking weight-lifting sessions. I was hoping this bug would be squashed in this update. (Spoiler alert: It wasn't.)

One of the main complaints from users has been about app speed. In the first watchOS, most of the app data -- as well as the corresponding extensions that coordinated with the watch -- was stored on the iPhone; only interface elements resided on the watch itself. This led to a lag in launch times while the watch contacted the app on the phone and then waited as data moved from the phone back to the watch.

In watchOS 2, the app extension joins the interface code on the watch itself, bringing speedier launches and better responsiveness. The more code a developer brings over into the now-native watch extension, the more the watch app can accomplish without needing to tether itself to the iPhone.

adjust settings fixed
Now you can adjust the settings so that the display doesn’t turn off when an app loads.

Apple has also fixed another aggravation: The watch would often turn off before app info had loaded. There's now an option under Settings / General / Wake Screen that keeps the display turned on for up to 70 seconds when the watch is awakened with a tap.


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