Review of Apple’s watchOS 2: An After Action Report

| Quick Look Review

On September 21st, Apple released its first major upgrade to the watchOS, version 2.0. Many new features have been included, some details still need fixing, and the upgrade process itself was problematic.


This may be a review in the article banner, but it's really more of an after action report. It's a follow up to my first reaction to the announced version 2 features: "10 Best Features of watchOS 2" in which I ranked my favorites.

Now it's time for a reality check after the install.

Image Credit: Apple

1. The Installation. The upgrade to watchOS 2 was the worst experience I've ever had with an Apple product. The total time for me, from when I launched the upgrade in the Apple Watch app on my iPhone 6 (iOS 9) to when I had a working Apple Watch, running watchOS 2.0 was five hours. Lest you think I have a poor connection, here's a screen shot of the latest speed test on my iPhone 6.

Here's a summary of my upgrade experience.

  1. Really slow download of the update file. About two hours.
  2. A false error message that the iPhone 6 was not on the Internet.
  3. The inability to stop the download with a hard reboot so as to try an install later. The glacial download progress survived an app quit and reboot. After reboot, the progress sped up however.
  4. A false error message that the iPhone could not connect to the Apple Watch when, in fact, the installation progress circle was active.
  5. On a positive note, when I decided to go for a walk and the iPhone politely said it would decline to continue to download the 515 MB update via cellular. That's standard practice in order to avoid taxing user data caps.
  6. A borked progress timer that went from 36, 33, 32, 20, 9, then 15 minutes remaining. Then resumed from 15 down to zero.

I was not alone. TMO staff members reported very similar problems. A good friend texted me with "Hey, were you able to update your watch? I've been stuck on verification for almost 4 hours."

I understand that Apple's servers were likely taxed. However, most of us had no problems with the larger iOS 9 upgrade. This upgrade was not a happy experience for me and others.

2. Time Travel. As expected, this is a pretty nifty feature. A good way to see it in action is to use the Modular watch face and rotate the Digital Crown. If you have compatible complications, like the temperature, they'll all update as you go forwards or backwards in time. This is a very cool feature, well implemented. Tap the digital Crown to return to the present.

Looking forward in time by about 2 hours. 
Events and temperature  get updated.

3. Complications are more orthogonal. In watchOS 1.x, not every standard complication was available on every section of every Apple Watch face. That has changed for the better now. Most every complication is available in all the outer sections of the various faces. One exception is the middle section on the Utility face.

4. Still no digital seconds. There is still no watch face that displays digital hh:mm:ss. One would think that, of all places, it would appear on the Astronomy face. It does not. This is an oversight bordering on negligence. No. It is negligence. Understandable in 1.x. Unforgivable in 2.0.

Tim Cook has claimed that the Apple Watch is accurate to 50 milliseconds, but if you want to even see whole seconds, you'll have to look at an analog watch face, such as Utility, Simple or Color. The problem here is that if you're reporting an event timing, you'll have to switch to an analog face and visually interpret where the second hand is. That's not a good as seeing hh:mm:ss in plain numbers. This is a surprising lack of attention to detail by Apple.

5. New watch faces. Several new watch faces have been added. You can sync a named photo album on your iPhone to the Apple Watch and select your favorite photo. Do that with the iPhone Watch app > My Watch > Photos > Synced Album. As with the Time Lapse faces, there are no additional complications available. That makes it a half-baked feature.

Next page: Stay awake, Wi-Fi mode, the Color watch face, Nightstand mode, documentation and final thoughts.

Product: watchOS 2.0

Company: Apple

List Price: Free


We Like It. You Should Get It.


Lots of essential new features that fulfill the promise of the Apple Watch. A free upgrade.


Difficult, long install with several false error messages. Inability to display hh:mm:ss in digital faces, especially the astronomy watch face.  Annoying inattention to detail with Color face, 70 sec wake and Nightstand mode. No extra complications on Photo faces.

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I have to ask.  How soon after it’s release did you start installing/downloading.  It’s not fair to say you had incredibly slow download times if you were in the thick of every other impatient upgrader.  We just went through this with people whining about the upgrade problems to ios9 because they HAD to have it that day.  I would be interested in seeing how long the process takes and if your errors cleared up by waiting a week.

Mike Mills

“But if you’ve seen enough in the 70 second awake mode, there’s no way to put the watch back to sleep that I have found. [UPDATE: You can rotate your wrist outward to put the display back to sleep.]”

Getting the watch face to sleep after you wake it is simple: just cover the watch face with your palm. You can also lower your wrist to your side and the watch will sleep. I have found this behavior to be unaffected by turning on the 70 second wake mode.

John Martellaro

Mike: thanks!


Would have been nice if the TimeLapse watchface had some additional city choices.  How about San Francisco???


Apple almost has it right with the 70 second wake mode but I want it to do that even on rotating my wrist to wake. Or give me a 30 second wake for that mode. The current 7 seconds is just too short with a lot of complications or if you are trying to quickly measure something.

I always put my watch to sleep with a palm over the screen because it also acts to reset the watch immediately back to the watch face. It works like the home button on the iPhone except it also sleeps the watch. I rarely want to return to whatever screen was displayed before the last time the screen turned off.



I too had the problematic update. Mine, however, was about 2 hours. The first time it completed (saying it would take 2 hours, but only taking one hour) but then got stuck at the verification stage. It also gave me the message that the iPhone could not connect with the watch. I was able to easily disable that stage by putting the watch on and logging onto it.

I restarted the download, and the second time it went like clockwork (no pun intended), again taking about 1 hour from download to installation to verification, etc.

I concur with you that it is indeed surprising that there is no second hand readout for the digital watch, as well as the colour option (red) for astronomical observing. I had the same complaint, that I could not get the watch hands to go red. For that reason, I generally use the modular mode, which gives more red and less glaring white for those times when one is dark-adapted.

Both of these features, the digital seconds readout and the colourisation, really should get fixed with the next update.

Al C

You can access the updated user guide from iPhone’s watch app. It would not the General -> About screen -> “View the Apple Watch User Guide”, I friend showed me that.
I updated mine the first night it came out, I had no problems except it took over 1 hr to update, an ran slow for sometime afterwards until it finished some update operation.
Disappointed with the implementation of the update, like: no complications on photos, no variable wake (70 seconds seem too long,) Can’t seem to connect to iPhone via wifi for all apps., I thought it could use the built in speaker for other applications like listening to short podcasts. I don’t seem to be able to see my watch on find my iPhone like some reported.

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