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Posts tagged with "watchOS 3"

AutoSleep 3.0

I first reviewed AutoSleep by David Walsh in December, noting how his idea of an automatic watchOS sleep tracker could bring one of the best Fitbit features to the Apple Watch. I've been wearing my Watch to bed every night, and AutoSleep has successfully logged sleep data with impressive accuracy.

As I wrote in my original review, however, AutoSleep needed an easier setup process and a cleaner design to help users understand and edit logged data. Walsh has been working hard on AutoSleep since launch, and version 3.0, released today on the App Store, addresses several of my complaints from the original app.

The setup wizard has been completely redesigned with a series of questions that make it easy to configure the app for your habits. Instead of cramming information on a single page, Sleep Quality and Day now have their own tabs in the app; the Day section is particularly handy to view a timeline of your day as logged by sensors on the iPhone and Apple Watch. Generally speaking, everything feels cleaner and better organized, and while some menus and symbols could still be explained differently, the overall app is more intuitive and accurate in its measurements.

Thanks to the fantastic battery life of the Apple Watch Series 2, wearing the Watch at night for sleep tracking isn't a problem, and AutoSleep makes automatic tracking a reality with features I can't find in any other app. If you tried the app and abandoned it at version 1.0, now's a good time to check it out again.

AutoSleep 3.0 is available on the App Store.


Upcoming watchOS 3.2 Includes New Theater Mode and Siri Improvements

Alongside beta versions of iOS, macOS, and tvOS, Apple today announced the release of the first beta of watchOS 3.2. The beta has yet to appear on Apple's developer portal, but it should be available soon. Besides the standard bug fixes and performance improvements, this update includes a couple new features, one of which is called Theater Mode. From Apple's developer release notes:

Theater Mode lets users quickly mute the sound on their Apple Watch and avoid waking the screen on wrist raise. Users still receive notifications (including haptics) while in Theater Mode, which they can view by tapping the screen or pressing the Digital Crown.

This sounds like an interesting new option that could be useful in scenarios besides being at the movie theater. Personally, I'm likely to use Theater Mode when I wear my Apple Watch overnight for sleep tracking. My normal practice is to turn off Raise to Wake in the Settings app before going to bed, but this could prove an easier method.

Besides Theater Mode, the most significant update in 3.2 is enhancements to Siri. Last year iOS 10 improved Siri by enabling it to handle queries from third-party apps that fit into specific categories:

  • Messaging
  • Payments
  • Ride booking
  • Workouts
  • Calling
  • Searching photos

Though all of those areas could be handled by Siri on iOS 10, Siri on Apple Watch was previously only able to direct you to your iPhone to perform those actions. But with watchOS 3.2, that is longer the case, as Siri on the Watch is now able to perform these third-party requests.

watchOS 3.2 will likely see a public release this spring, after a couple months of beta testing is complete.


AutoSleep Turns the Apple Watch Into an Automatic Sleep Tracker

I'm terrible at keeping a decent sleep schedule. I love my job and I often stay up late working on my latest story. Sometimes, I decide to relax with a videogame, I lose track of time, and suddenly it's 4 AM. I know, however, that getting enough quality sleep every night is key to a healthy lifestyle, which is why, over the past month, I've tried to wake up earlier and work out in the morning.

With these personal changes, motivation only goes so far for me. I want to be able to visualize my progress and current streak. Since getting an Apple Watch Series 2 a couple of weeks ago, I've started looking into the idea of using it as a sleep tracker again. There are some solid options on watchOS, but all of them require pressing a button in an app right before you're about to sleep. And because I normally drift off to sleep, I forget to activate sleep tracking mode and no sleep gets tracked at all.

In my limited tests with a Fitbit this month (before getting a new Apple Watch), I came away thinking that automatic sleep detection was my favorite feature of the product. You don't have to press anything and the Fitbit figures out when you started sleeping and when you woke up. Combined with a dashboard like Gyroscope, it's a great way to build an automatic sleep log that passively monitors your sleeping habits.

David Walsh, developer of MacStories favorite HeartWatch, wants to recreate the same experience with AutoSleep, an iPhone app that turns your Apple Watch into an automatic sleep tracker without installing a Watch app. I've been wearing my Watch to bed for the past week, and AutoSleep has worked surprisingly well.

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watchOS 3: The MacStories Review

This month will mark the two-year point since the Apple Watch was first unveiled to the world, and nearly a year and a half since the product first made its way into the hands of consumers. Two years is a long time in technology in general, but particularly so for Apple. In this time the Apple Watch has gone from a product developed in secret, deep within Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, to the most popular smartwatch in the world. Millions of units have been sold, and surveys have pegged customer sat as extremely high.

Yet despite these positives, the Apple Watch has spent its first two years of existence as a flawed product. This is not due to the Watch’s hardware, which was beautifully designed, decently powered, and boasts enough battery life to easily last a day. Rather, the Achilles' heel of the Apple Watch has been its software.

watchOS has had problems from the start. Apple shipped its first version in an incomplete state, in which third-party applications were purportedly supported, but unable to run natively on the Watch itself. Instead, the logic of each app was executed on the connected iPhone, and the Watch was used as a dumb display for the results. This method was astoundingly slow in practice, not to mention that it rendered the Watch incapable of nearly anything beyond telling the time when disconnected from its iPhone.

It’s not surprising then, that only two months after the Watch’s release to consumers in April 2015, Apple introduced the first iteration on its operating system, watchOS 2. As I discussed in my review of watchOS 2 last year, version 2 did not significantly change any visual designs or interfaces. Rather, it was a foundational update meant to create the base of a more mature operating system, establishing important building blocks that could be iterated upon in the future.

The foundation created by watchOS 2 seems to be paying off, as this year’s major update to the system, watchOS 3, does indeed build up from that base. However, many of the other aspects of watchOS 2 turned out to be failures, and a year in the wild has proved the update unable to fulfill many of the promises Apple made about it.

There were two standout watchOS 2 features which did not hold true. First, the data surfaced by watchOS 2 apps was supposed to be updated more frequently in the background so as to keep them consistently relevant. Second, the move from running app logic on the iPhone to running it on the Watch itself was supposed to make watchOS apps more responsive and fast.

Perhaps when compared to the incomplete and unacceptable performance of watchOS 1, it could be argued that these goals succeeded, but I would disagree. After a year of using watchOS 2 with my Apple Watch strapped to my wrist nearly every single day, I can say unequivocally that apps were not fast enough to cross the threshold of “useable”, nor was data ever updated consistently enough for me to trust that it was not stale.

In lieu of these and other letdowns in watchOS 2, and after over a year of Apple Watches being in consumers’ hands, the next update to Apple’s smartwatch operating system had a lot riding on its shoulders. Would it double down on the sins of its predecessors, adding more interfaces like the spinning circles of friends and the whimsical yet impractical honeycomb Home screen? Would Apple try even harder to achieve the impossible goal (for current hardware, at least) of all apps running as smoothly as iOS apps and updating consistently?

Thankfully, while the rest of us spent the last year debating Apple’s intentions, Apple spent it hard at work.

For this year’s update, Apple took a hard look at the state of its smartwatch operating system, and it found many features wanting. Showing an uplifting ability to admit when they were wrong, Apple did not shy away from tearing out anything that wasn’t working, including features that were emphasized and promoted in announcements and marketing just last year.

watchOS 3 is still the same watchOS that you know, but its changes have cut deeply and ruthlessly at its origins. Apple is stripping away the cruft and honing watchOS down to a purer form. The strong system foundation of watchOS 2 and general design language of watchOS 1 are still present, but this year’s improvements have made both far more effective.

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    David Smith’s iOS 10 and watchOS 3 App Updates

    I'm a fan of David Smith's apps for the Apple Watch. He gets what makes an app great on the Watch, and his focus on health and fitness resonates with me. David shipped some solid iOS 10 and watchOS 3 updates today – but Background Refresh in Sleep++ is my favorite:

    Sleep++ has been updated to take advantage of the new Background Refresh mechanism in watchOS 3. Now rather than performing all of the sleep analysis in the morning when you wake up, instead it is able to analyze your night while you are sleeping. So when you wake up only the last few minutes of the night need to be processed. The end result of this is that you should barely seen the Analyzing Night progress dialog any more.

    I have a feeling that Background Refresh will make me re-evaluate several Watch apps I stopped using (except David's – one of the very few apps on my Watch).

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