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Posts tagged with "apple watch"

How the watchOS 7 Handwashing Feature Works

Brian Heater at TechCrunch has published a detailed explanation of how the upcoming handwashing feature for Apple Watch works:

The feature, which is built directly into the forthcoming version of watchOS, is designed to work like fitness tracking in a number of ways. For starters, if the user opts into it, it’s designed to automatically trigger when handwashing is detected, starting a countdown timer of 20 seconds. The accelerometer is the key piece of hardware here, waiting for the specific handwashing pattern — which apparently adopts a number of different methods, depending on who’s actually doing the scrubbing.

The system uses machine learning models to tackle different methods, but the system gets an additional nudge from the Watch’s microphone. Along with motion, the app listens for the sound of running water. Even that’s not enough, though — after all, eco sinks have become increasingly popular, meaning that there’s often less water sound to be listening for. The sound of squishing soap takes care of that last bit. It’s got a unique enough audio signature so as to confirm that handwashing is taking place.

Interestingly, the piece notes that this feature has been in the works for years, it isn’t simply a reaction to the current pandemic. I haven’t tried the feature yet, but I’m anxious to see if it works as advertised. If it’s unreliable, I’ll surely leave it turned off, but if it works well it could be a valuable aid to preventing the contraction of COVID-19. At the very least, I’m always happy to see Apple explore new areas of health.

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Stephen Hackett on the Apple Watch’s Breathe App

Stephen Hackett, writing at 512 Pixels:

When Apple added the Breathe feature to watchOS 3, I — like many of you, I suspect — turned it off pretty quickly. However, over the last six months, it has come to be one of my favorite things about wearing my Apple Watch.

Hackett goes on to explain some of the specific circumstances that led him to revisit Breathe, and why it’s become such a valuable tool for him.

It’s fairly common for me to forget that a feature exists because I made a decision once, a long time ago, to turn it off. Revisiting the Breathe app could be a useful thing for a lot of us right now.

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Apple Watch Activity Challenge Coming June 5 for World Environment Day

Apple Watch owners will have the chance to earn perhaps their most attainable special Activity award yet. On Friday, June 5 the World Environment Day Challenge will call Apple Watch users to close their Stand ring for the day to earn a unique award badge. From the Activity app:

Recognize World Environment Day this Friday. Close your Stand ring on June 5 and earn this award by getting up and moving around for at least one minute during 12 hours that day.

Presumably for wheelchair users, the award can be earned as well by closing the Roll ring, which follows the same basic parameters as the Stand ring.

I always enjoy earning additional awards related to Activity challenges, so I’m glad Apple is continuing to offer these options and adapt them to the restrictions of the ongoing pandemic.


Apple Releases New Pride Edition Watch Bands Ahead of Pride Month, New Watch Faces Coming Soon

In anticipation of Pride month in June, Apple today has announced the release of two new Pride Edition bands for the Apple Watch, and new Pride watch faces that will be available soon as part of the watchOS 6.2.5 release.

It’s become an annual tradition for Apple to debut a new Pride band for Apple Watch and an accompanying watch face, but this is the first time there have been two new options launching. The Pride Edition Sport Band features the traditional rainbow pattern similar to last year’s offering, though that previous band was a Sport Loop, rather than the first-time Sport Band option available this year. The Nike Pride Edition Sport Band follows the unique design style of Nike’s other bands, but with its rainbow colors adorning the white band’s holes. The Nike Pride face arriving in the next watchOS update is unique as well, with colored dots representing the face’s hour markings.

The new Watch bands will be available today from the Apple Store, and watchOS 6.2.5 is anticipated to release some time in the next month leading up to WWDC.


David Smith’s watchOS 7 Wishlist

David Smith, developer of Watchsmith and a host of other Apple Watch apps, shared his watchOS 7 wishlist today. With his pedigree, there’s no one I trust more to make a thoughtful, realistic, well-informed list of requests for watchOS than Smith. For example, here’s an excerpt of his introduction:

I am fully aware of the constraints of the Apple Watch. I’ve spent the last 6 months pushing the limits of what is possible for it and have seen all the corners of its use, where it completely falls apart.

Nearly every one of these ideas or features involves a tradeoff. Either between battery life and capability or between complexity and intuitiveness. I suspect Apple’s own internal list of ideas and possibilities far outstrips my own. The reason they haven’t built a feature yet isn’t because they haven’t thought about it.

Instead it is quite the opposite. They have chosen explicitly to not do it yet. This is the tricky calculus involved in evolving a platform. If they push too fast, too soon on the capability side then they may end up destroying the battery life of the device. Or if they add too many features then they might end up with a jumbled mess that users can’t understand.

I don’t envy the leadership that has to sit down and make the hard calls of what to do, when.

Some of the features he mentions that are at the top of my own list include rest days for activity tracking, true independence, and multiple complications. The full list is well worth exploring, and offers valuable insight into what we might see revealed next month.

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The Beauty of the Apple Watch’s Solar Dial Face

Jack Forster at Hodinkee has a wonderful deep-dive essay on the Solar Dial face on Apple Watch, which was added last year in watchOS 6:

Tapping the Solar Dial watch face will allow you to see whether it’s day, or night, or one of the various phases of twilight. You can also see how many hours of daylight there are. The color of the sky also changes depending on the time of day, and during the twilight hours, you get a very pretty transition from blue, to a deeper blue, to a lovely pale pink as the solar disk begins to sink below the horizon. You can rotate the crown to show you what time sunset takes place, as well as the various phases of twilight. You’ll also see, in yellow numbers in the sub-dial, how many hours it is from the current time to sunset, or other solar astronomical events.

[…]

I give the Apple Watch Solar Dial a lot of credit for taking the properties of the smartwatch and using them to create a very captivating experience. The luminosity of the display and its ability, as night falls or sunrise dawns, to display different colors, as well as the general composition of the dial, makes for something much richer and far more emotionally evocative than the mere delivery of information. And too, it gives us a chance to reflect on what darkness and light have meant, and continue to mean, culturally and historically. There is something irresistibly compelling about having a little model universe on your wrist.

It’s remarkable how much attention to detail Apple gave to this watch face, including the intricate nuances of the different phases of twilight. I’ve never used the Solar Dial face before, but Forster’s piece has changed that, and I’m eager to see how the face transforms throughout the remainder of today.

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Watchsmith Review: Create Your Own Apple Watch Complications

Watchsmith, the latest app from David Smith, was birthed from the inability to create third-party watch faces on the Apple Watch. As Smith has previously explained, while third-party faces may never be possible, several first-party faces already offer significant room for customization. The Infograph face, for example, contains eight different complication slots; if a rich array of third-party complications were available, you could build a highly customized watch face using the existing faces provided by Apple.

Watchsmith exists to provide that rich set of complications. The app offers 37 types of complications, each adaptable to different watch faces and complication slots, and all fully customizable so they can look exactly the way you prefer. Additionally, Watchsmith offers scheduling functionality to cause different complications to appear on your Watch at different times throughout the day.

Custom complications made with Watchsmith.

Custom complications made with Watchsmith.

In the absence of third-party watch faces, Watchsmith offers the next best thing: third-party complications that are highly customizable and can be optimized to your daily schedule.

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HeartWatch 4: A Streamlined Dashboard for Your Health

HeartWatch 4 released today on the App Store as a major redesign of the health dashboard app from David Walsh, creator of the popular AutoSleep app.

HeartWatch takes the existing heart and activity data captured by your Apple Watch and presents it in a different way than Apple’s own Health app. The app has long offered fresh approaches to visualizing your data, but the sheer amount of information, and how it’s organized, can easily feel overwhelming. The main goal of HeartWatch 4 was to simplify everything, making it easier to navigate and thus more approachable. Spend just a couple minutes with this update and it’s clear that it succeeded.

I’m not going to re-hash all of the functionality of HeartWatch, since we’ve covered that in the past. You still have access to important metrics like your heart’s average daily bpm, sedentary bpm, sleep data, movement stats, and more, accompanied by charts, graphs, and comparisons over time. But the way everything’s organized has been drastically improved.

In the last version of HeartWatch, a navigation bar divided the app into four main sections: Vitals, Dashboard, Activity, and More. The difference between each of these screens wasn’t immediately obvious, so until you spent significant time getting situated in the app, it felt like work trying to find what you wanted. All of that’s changed now thanks to a design that puts everything in a single scrolling view.

The new HeartWatch design is broken into Wellness, Activity, and Workout sections that are stacked vertically in the new one-stop dashboard. Inside each section is a collection of tiles for different data points, not unlike what Walsh did with the Today dashboard in AutoSleep last year. The tile design provides a great overview of data, and it’s entirely customizable so you can, from the Settings screen, disable any tiles you don’t want to see.

All of HeartWatch's great graphs and charts are just a swipe or tap behind its tiles.

All of HeartWatch’s great graphs and charts are just a swipe or tap behind its tiles.

At first glance, HeartWatch’s tile design may seem like it’s eliminated much of the valuable data comparisons and visualizations previously found in the app, but all of that is actually just hidden behind each tile. You can swipe on a tile to flip it over and get more info, or tap, or even tap and hold to view more details; personally I think loading different screens depending on whether you tap or tap and hold is overly complicated, but regardless the whole system remains a major improvement. The simple data is kept front and center, and when you want more, you can easily get to it in an intuitive way.

HeartWatch 4 includes other improvements too – like its custom activity metrics as an alternative to Apple’s rings, support for automatic system switching between light and dark modes, and an upgraded Watch app – but the highlight here is definitely the redesigned iPhone app. If you ever found HeartWatch and all of its data overwhelming, version 4 is a compelling reason to give the app another try. It’s strong evidence of the power of iteration and simplicity.

HeartWatch 4 is available on the App Store.


Things Debuts Modernized Apple Watch App

The Apple Watch has come a long way in five years, and apps are only starting to catch up. Many Watch apps received the majority of their development attention with the first or second versions of watchOS, before the days of LTE service, independence, and SwiftUI. Those early Watch apps were hamstrung by OS limitations, but in the last few years as the platform has evolved, most apps never adapted to what’s possible now.

Things 3.12, releasing today, exists for just that purpose: it addresses the task manager’s former Watch client shortcomings, making it a truly capable companion for Things on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

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