10 Best Features of watchOS 2

Apple didn't get watchOS 2 out the door on September 16th because of a bug, but it'll be out soon. This 2.0 release is packed with a boatload of very cool features that you'll want to have right away, so let's take a tour.

WatchOS version 1.0/1.0.1 was a decent first start for Apple. However, in line with the Steve Jobs philosophy of "great artists ship," watchOS v1 had some peculiarities and was also missing a few features we hoped would appear but had to wait. In this delightful update, we get all we'd hoped for and more.

Note: to prepare for this update to watchOS version 2.0, do the following: 1) update your paired iPhone to iOS 9.0. Downloads became available on September 15th. 2) Refer to Jeff Gamet's article: "How to Install watchOS 2.0" when you're ready for the upgrade.

What follows is my list of the major new things you'll get in watchOS 2 starting with my favorites at the top and working down. 

1. Time Travel. This uses the Digital Crown to scan forward or backward in time, depending on your app. You can see what your future schedule looks like or see the weather forecast for later in the day. This looks to be one of the signature features of watchOS 2.

2. Stay Awake Longer. One of the major irritations of the first version of this device was the rather quick time out period for the face to go blank. This was no doubt designed to conserve battery power in the hands of compulsive time checkers.

Now that Apple has some experience with how people are using the Apple Watch, watchOS 2.0 will allow the face to remain lit for a longer period. (70 seconds, I believe.) This will help greatly when demoing to a friend, sharing info with someone else, doing informal timings, and so on. This will remove a major irritation of the Apple Watch.

3. More Customized Complications. WatchOS 1 had a rather limited set of complications. (Complications are those little snippets of data appearing on the watch face such as the digital time or temperature. The name is a carryover from analog watches of old.) Complications can now draw from third party apps. I'm expecting some of the sparseness of the original complications to be remedied and all complications to become available on every face.

4. Native Apps. In watchOS v1, apps ran in a partitioned mode with the heavy processing on the iPhone and a low-load display on the Apple Watch. In version 2.0, there will be native apps for the Apple Watch. They'll integrate more deeply with the watch's sensors such as the accelerometer, heart rate sensor and Taptic Engine. They'll also launch more quickly.

5. Apple Pay Enhancements. The new software supports the Discover credit card in addition to some store cards, for example, Kohl's. You'll also be able to add rewards/loyalty cards right in the watch. Passbook becomes Wallet.

6. Nightstand Mode. If your Apple Watch is connected to its charger, place it on its side on your bedside nightstand. With a touch, you'll be able to see the time, set an alarm and use the Digital Crown as a snooze button.

Many of the original Apple Watch charging docks have not been designed to present the watch horizontally, and I expect many of them to be redesigned and relaunched.

7. Activation Lock. Just as with your iPhone, your Apple Watch now prevents a thief who has stolen the watch from wiping the device and loading it anew. In watchOS 2, the watch can't be re-activated without the credentials of your Apple ID.

8. Direct Wi-Fi. Now your Apple Watch will be able to get on a Wi-Fi network directly without out needing the paired iPhone as a proxy. This should make for a more reliable experience with Siri and perhaps other apps.

9. New Watch Faces. Your iPhone has a customizable home display, so why not your Apple Watch? You can even select from time-lapse videos from notable cities, for example, London, New York, Paris, and Hong Kong. Or extract an image from your photo album.

10. Dictate E-mail Response. If you're the kind of person who likes to (or must) read email on your Apple Watch, v2 will allow you to provide a canned reply, just as with text messages now. Or you can dictate a voice response and have it sent as a reply. Pretty geeky if you ask me.

There are a few other minor updates that I won't dwell on, such as transit guides. Suffice it to say that the amazing updates above will be enough to get users updating, talking, and loving their Apple Watch even more.

Finally, it's not hard to guess that with some of these these enhancements, Apple is laying the groundwork for a future Apple Watch which won't need a paired iPhone nearby (or at all) in order to function well. Time will tell.


All images via Apple