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Posts tagged with "watchOS 9"

David Smith Tests the Apple Watch Ultra on a Three-Day Hike in Scotland

David Smith, the developer of Widgetsmith, Watchsmith, Pedometer++, and many other apps, put the new Apple Watch Ultra through its paces on a three-day hike through the Scottish Highlands. Dave confirmed what I’ve suspected all along. The Apple Watch isn’t so much an extreme sports watch as it is an Apple Watch with expanded capabilities that make it work better for strenuous activities like a three-day hike but also make it the best Apple Watch for the things an Apple Watch already does. As he puts it:

While I was putting together this review I kept coming back to the analogy that the Ultra is like a pick-up truck. Useful in regular, daily life but capable of heading offroad or carrying gravel from the garden store. It still drives like a regular car, but can do more.

Dave’s post is accompanied by a video journal of his trip shot on an iPhone 14 Pro. The video is full of great insights into the Ultra’s hardware, a couple of criticisms of its software, and loads of beautiful footage of the Scottish Highlands.

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watchOS 9: The MacStories Review

As we enter the ninth iteration of watchOS, I must admit that I sometimes find myself looking back wistfully on the computer watch that the Apple Watch once was. My inner tech nerd misses the wild, blind shots at digital connection and interface design which we were gifted by an Apple that had not yet figured out what the mass market wanted from this device.

In many ways, the early days of the Apple Watch feel like echoes from a bygone era of Apple; an era in which it was more willing to throw things at the wall just to see what stuck. This is, after all, the company which brought us the buttonless iPod shuffle, the hockey puck mouse, brushed metal, the tape-recorder Podcast app, and so much more. We tend to call it Apple’s sense of “whimsy”, and early watchOS had plenty of it.

Time Traveling in watchOS 2.

Time Traveling in watchOS 2.

In watchOS 2, Apple shipped a feature called Time Travel where you could spin the Digital Crown to “travel backwards and forwards in time”. Complications would move alongside the watch hands to reflect their past or predicted future values. Time Travel was demoted to a setting in watchOS 3, and quietly removed entirely some time later.

There was also the concept of Glances beginning all the way back in watchOS 1. Glances were single-page app interfaces accessible by swiping up from the watch face, then swiping side-to-side to switch between them. Third-party apps could create these, and the watch supported up to 20 of them. Glances were also canned in watchOS 3. They were replaced by the Dock, which never quite managed to capture the same energy.

For years, Apple seemed particularly interested in the potential of the Apple Watch to be a core hub for personal communication. Until watchOS 3, the hardware side button on the device was dedicated to opening the Friends interface. When interacting with your friends, you could send giant animated emojis — perhaps a very early precursor to the Memoji that we have today. And of course, no one could forget Digital Touch. Who among us did not feel more connected to our loved ones when tapping out pings and drawing shapes on their wrists1?

The Friends interface in watchOS 2.

The Friends interface in watchOS 2.

What leaves me feeling so conflicted is that, ultimately, all of the above features were pretty bad. No one used the Friends interface, Time Travel wasn’t particularly useful, third-party Glances were kneecapped by their lack of interactivity, and communicating from an Apple Watch has always just been way more work than pulling out your iPhone. Apple was right to kill all of these features in their time, but I still can’t stop missing the days when my Apple Watch was searching for more variety in purpose than it exists with today.

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  1. I imagine Digital Touch is unfazed by my mockery; likely too busy feeling satisfied that it is the only one of the features described above which has (somehow) endured into modern iterations of watchOS. ↩︎

watchOS 9: The MacStories Preview

After watching this year’s WWDC keynote in June, my initial impression of the watchOS 9 announcement was that Apple had prepared one of the largest Apple Watch updates in years. While writing my watchOS 9 overview later that day though, it felt like the scope of the changes were less than I originally thought. I needed some hands-on time with the update to know for sure.

I’ve had bad luck installing early watchOS betas in the past, so I’ve been waiting for the public beta to arrive before loading it onto my daily-driver Apple Watch. That said, I installed the developer beta right away onto an extra Apple Watch Series 4 that I’ve kept around, and have been using it as much as possible throughout the past month. I’ve ascertained a good feel for this year’s update, and can confirm that we’re looking at another mild-mannered year for the Apple Watch.

I don’t mean this as an insult at all. Rather, it’s another year of the relentless incremental refinement that Apple has long been known for, but which the company has practically turned into a science for watchOS. The formula looks something like this:

  • A handful of improvements to the Workout app
  • One or two new features targeted at health
  • A handful of new watch faces
  • One or two brand-new first-party apps
  • One or two redesigned first-party apps
  • A system-level feature or improvement

This year’s changes to the Workout app may be more significant than usual, but otherwise watchOS 9 fits this formula quite snugly. While it may not make for the most glamorous year-over-year updates, the strategy has cemented the Apple Watch as the most popular smartwatch in the world — by far. It’s no surprise that Apple sees no need to alter it.

While the formula may have stayed the same, there are still plenty of specifics to dig into. Let’s start with Workout, the app whose changes single-handedly led me to believe that we were getting a bigger-than-usual watchOS update this year.

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watchOS 9: The MacStories Overview

During yesterday’s WWDC keynote event, Apple announced watchOS 9. As usual, health and fitness are the core areas of focus in the update, with the Workout app in particular getting packed with new features and metric views. The Sleep app will now track in-depth sleep stage data, and an all-new Medications app is making its debut as well. Throw in some minor quality-of-life system changes, a handful of new watch faces, and some nice accessibility improvements, and we’re looking at a fairly standard watchOS update this year.

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