Apple reserved a healthy chunk of time at its annual developer's conference keynote to get developers invested in the Apple Watch. The marquee feature in the upcoming watchOS update is the ability for the Watch to run native apps.
Many Apple Watch owners may not even be aware of this, but current watchOS apps are extensions of iPhone apps. While iPhone and Apple Watch apps have their own unique UIs, the app logic takes place on the phone. watchOS 2's apps will have their own app logic – truly native Apple Watch apps.
Apple is also giving app developers greater hardware access for those apps. watchOS 2 native apps can access the Apple Watch's microphone and Digital Crown, and they can play audio on the watch speaker (or a connected Bluetooth device), play video on the Watch screen, and access HealthKit and HomeKit. Native apps can also access Wi-Fi to draw data from the Internet even when the user's iPhone isn't around.
Another new feature in watchOS 2 is "Time Travel," Apple's take on the time-based UI, similar to what we first saw on Pebble Time. Watch faces that handle "complexities" (glanceable variables, like moon phases, sports scores or calendar events) can now scroll forward or backward in time (using the Watch's Digital Crown), to let the user easily see how, for example, the weather will change throughout the day, or how much battery life the Apple Watch will have left by the time their flight leaves.
Apple Watch also gets new watch faces in watchOS 2, including photo faces, photo album faces (automatically switch among different photos from within an album and show it on the watch's face) and even time lapse faces, that show world landmarks at different points in the day (corresponding to the wearer's local time).
Similar to Android Wear, watchOS 2 will also turn the Apple Watch into a little faux desk clock when it's charging. Its side buttons will serve as snooze and off buttons for its alarm clock function.
On watchOS 2, the Apple Watch will also let you reply to emails – as it can already do with texts and iMessages.
The first beta of the new watchOS update will be available for developers today, with its final version launching as a free update this (Northern) fall.
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