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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.

When the wake-up time comes, an audible alarm will sound, like any standard alarm. This mode uses the Digital Crown as a snooze button, while the Favorites button becomes a way to delay or permanently silence the alarm.

WatchOS 2 will also feature new watch faces that were in the original announcement but didn't make the final cut for version 1.x, including time lapse images of several famous locations -- such as Hong Kong, New York and Paris -- and two custom watch faces based on your own photos, called Photos and Photo Album.

Photo Album randomly displays a photo from a selected album whenever the display is turned on, while the Photo option lets you select a particular shot to use as the wallpaper. Even better, Photo supports the new Live Photos feature that comes with the iPhone 6S and 6S+; the photo animates into position, kind of like those magical paintings in Harry Potter.

Existing functions in Siri have been enhanced. Siri can now start workouts, bring up Glances, look up words, calculate tips and find transit information for public transportation (where available, of course).

You can now reply to emails without using the iPhone, and there can be multiple pages for the Friends button on the side of the watch, including a new ability to create Groups. (This is set up through the Watch app on the iPhone.) And you can communicate with your friends in a variety of colors using Digital Touch sketches.

Wallet, the iPhone app that previously stored only boarding passes and debit/credit cards, now can support store cards and loyalty cards. Personally, I can't wait for the Dunkin Donuts Perks card support, but others -- such as Discover and Kohl's charge cards -- will also be supported.

Better security

For the security minded, Apple has introduced the Activation Lock, which is meant to deter thefts. If you ever lose your watch, enable Mark as Missing in the Watch app on the iPhone. Anybody who then tries to pair the watch with an iPhone won't be able to do it without your iCloud Apple ID and password -- even if they find a way to wipe all of the data from the watch and start from scratch.

Also, with the option enabled, you can unlock the watch by authenticating on the iPhone; accessing the Home Screen from the Lock Screen on the iPhone, whether via passcode entry or Touch ID, will automatically unlock the Watch as well, saving a step.

Still room for improvement

Despite all these advances, it's not all good news for Apple Watch owners.

For me, the most disappointing thing about the watch has been its fitness-tracking capabilities. Running, jumping and activities that involve swinging your arms all work well with the watch. Lifting weights? Not so much.

 

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