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Posts tagged with "watchOS"

Evolving the Apple Watch in watchOS 5

Matt Birchler has published his list of requests for watchOS 5, and I wholeheartedly agree with all of his major feature ideas. His top request is identical to my own: letting third-party apps populate the Siri Watch face introduced last year.

Essentially, Apple should be making the Siri watch face the smartest, most useful watch face someone can choose. It already is the smartest, but to be useful to everyone, they need to make the apps people are actually using work with it.

I've been using the Siri face nearly non-stop since installing the watchOS 4 beta. Because I use a lot of first-party apps, it still offers me enough value to be the best Watch face for me. Once third-party apps can tap in though, it could end up becoming the best face for everyone.

Pair Siri face improvements with Birchler's other major requests – always-on Watch faces, an Apple Podcasts app, and further updates to Activity and Workout – and watchOS 5 would stack up to address all my outstanding issues with the platform.

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Apple Addresses the Meltdown and Spectre Exploits With Additional Mitigations to Come

In a support article, Apple has acknowledged that the recently-disclosed Meltdown and Spectre exploits, which affect virtually every CPU in computers, mobile devices, and other platforms, also impact every Mac and iOS device. Although there are no known exploits of the vulnerabilities, Apple advises that users proceed with caution and download apps from trusted sources only.

Mitigations to defend against Meltdown have already been shipped by Apple in iOS 11.2, macOS 10.13.2, and tvOS 11.2. watchOS is unaffected by Meltdown. Development of mitigations for both exploits is ongoing and new defenses will be released to each Apple OS as they become available.

The support article published by Apple provides a high-level explanation of how each exploit works. If there’s any good news to be found in the widespread concern caused by these exploits it’s that Apple says the recently-released mitigations have no measurable impact on performance:

Our testing with public benchmarks has shown that the changes in the December 2017 updates resulted in no measurable reduction in the performance of macOS and iOS as measured by the GeekBench 4 benchmark, or in common Web browsing benchmarks such as Speedometer, JetStream, and ARES-6.

Apple’s support document also reveals that Spectre can be exploited in web browsers, including Safari, using JavaScript. Apple is working to address the problem with an update to Safari that will be released in the coming days. Apple says that:

Our current testing indicates that the upcoming Safari mitigations will have no measurable impact on the Speedometer and ARES-6 tests and an impact of less than 2.5% on the JetStream benchmark.

The gravity of the exploits, which affect virtually all computing platforms, cannot be understated, but it’s reassuring that the initial mitigations released and those coming in the days ahead should have little or no impact on performance. It’s also worth noting that this is probably not the last we’ll hear about Meltdown and Spectre. As Apple notes:

We continue to develop and test further mitigations within the operating system for the Spectre techniques, and will release them in upcoming updates of iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS. 

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Workouts++ Adds Podcast Playback, Mapping, New Workout Types, Siri and More

Almost a year ago, David Smith released Workouts++, an alternative to watchOS’ built-in Workout app that adds an iOS component to leverage the data collected during workouts. Today, Smith released version 2.0 of Workouts++ with a host of new features enabled by advances in the Apple Watch and Apple’s health and fitness APIs, including podcast playback, location tracking and mapping, support for new workout types, Siri integration, and more. On top of that, Workouts++ is now free with no In-App Purchases, advertising, or subscription.

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Apple Previews Emoji Coming to iOS 11, macOS High Sierra, and watchOS

Today marks the 4th annual World Emoji Day, which was started by Emojipedia to celebrate emoji. To mark the occasion, Apple has previewed its designs of the emoji approved as part of the Unicode 10 Standard that will be added to iOS, macOS, and watchOS later this year.

In addition, the Apple Podcasts Twitter account is tweeting emojified versions of the names of popular podcasts and iTunes Movies is featuring emojified movie titles.

For more on World Emoji Day and how it's being celebrated, check out its official website.


AutoSleep 4.0

AutoSleep, my favorite sleep tracking app for Apple Watch, has received a major update to version 4.0 earlier this week, which has brought a complete redesign that makes the app more intuitive and informative.

Developer David Walsh has been busy with AutoSleep's development: version 3.0 was already quite a departure from the original app released in December 2016, but AutoSleep 4.0 feels like something else entirely. The app is finally beautiful to look at, with a clever visualization of sleep times and quality based on rings. In the main clock UI, you can now easily see how much you've slept and the quality of your sleep; at the bottom of the same page, another set of rings displays 'Today's Sleep' alongside an arguably more useful 7-day average. This use of rings is reminiscent of Apple's Activity app, and I think it's a perfect match for sleep tracking. If Apple ever adds native sleep tracking to watchOS, I wouldn't be surprised to see an implementation similar to AutoSleep.

There's a lot more to explore in AutoSleep 4.0 – the app now has a dark interface (which makes the colored rings truly pop), every chart has been redesigned and reworded for clarity, and browsing an individual day's timeline is faster than before. I continue to be impressed with Walsh's ability to listen to feedback and iterate without drifting away from AutoSleep's underlying goal, which is to help you form better sleep habits by seeing what you're doing wrong.

AutoSleep makes me appreciate wearing the Apple Watch more. I highly recommend taking version 4.0 for a spin if you haven't tried the app in a while.

AutoSleep 4.0 is available on the App Store.


Apple Releases watchOS 3.2 and macOS 10.12.4

Today, Apple released updates to watchOS and macOS Sierra. The two updates are predominantly maintenance releases, but there are a handful of user-facing highlights between the two.

watchOS 3.2 adds Theater Mode. According to the beta release notes published on Apple’s developer site, Theater Mode lets users mute their Watch and disable raise-to-wake. Theater Mode is accessible by swiping up from the bottom of the Apple Watch’s screen. While the feature is engaged, notifications are silent, but you still receive haptic feedback when a notification is received and can view a notification by pressing the Digital Crown.

The watchOS update also adds SiriKit support for the following types of activities:

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

SiriKit was originally rolled out as part of iOS 10 last fall.

The primary user-facing change to macOS Sierra 10.12.4 is the addition of Night Shift. As with iOS, Night Shift on the Mac changes the color of your display to reduce blue light, giving your screen a warmer, slightly orange cast.

There are a couple ways to turn on Night Shift on a Mac. One way is to use Siri to toggle the feature on and off. If you want more control over Night Shift though, the feature is available in System Preferences under Displays. Night Shift occupies its own tab in the Displays preference pane, from which you can turn it on and off manually or set a schedule to activate Night Shift automatically. Schedules include the ability to create a custom schedule or turn it on at sunset and off at sunrise. You can also dial in the exact color temperature that Night Shift uses with a slider.

Sierra 10.12.4 includes Touch Bar support for the Mac App Store.

Sierra 10.12.4 includes Touch Bar support for the Mac App Store.

In addition to Night Shift, Siri on the Mac now knows about cricket, including data from the Indian Premier League and International Cricket Council. macOS 10.12.4 also adds supports dictation for Shanghainese, updated PDFKit, which was a source of bugs for third-party PDF apps, and added Touch Bar support to the Mac App Store.


Workouts++ Review

Workouts++ by David Smith takes my favorite aspect of Apple’s stock Workout app for watchOS – the ability to quickly start a workout – and adds layers of customization and workout tracking that takes the app to another level altogether. The key to Smith’s watchOS app is the inclusion of an iOS app that lets you customize the real-time statistics tracked on your Apple Watch during a workout and view the data collected in useful ways.

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Apple Releases macOS 10.12.2 and watchOS 3.1.1

Today, Apple updated macOS Sierra 10.12.2 and yesterday, it updated watchOS 3.1.1 with the usual unspecified bug fixes and performance enhancements, but there are also a few other nice perks that are likely to attract customers to the update.

Some of the 72 new emoji accessible from the macOS character viewer.

Some of the 72 new emoji accessible from the macOS character viewer.

The macOS and watchOS updates both feature the same emoji added to iOS 10.2. The 72 new emoji, approved as part of Unicode 9.0 in June 2016, include new smileys, animals, food items, professions, sports, and more. Apple has also redesigned many of the existing emoji with a slightly more three-dimensional look and greater detail. As has been the case in the past, the new emoji added to macOS and watchOS should encourage adoption of what are otherwise primarily maintenance updates to each OS.

macOS 10.12.2 includes four new colorful wallpapers.

macOS 10.12.2 includes four new colorful wallpapers.

In addition, macOS adds four new wallpapers called Abstract Shapes, Color Burst 1, Color Burst 2, and Color Burst 3. The Color Burst wallpapers were first seen at Apple’s October MacBook Pro event and have since made cameos in advertisements for the new MacBook Pros.


iOS 10.1 Stands Out Among Updates to All Apple OSes

Apple updated iOS, watchOS, macOS, and tvOS all at once today. Most of the changes consist of bug fixes, security enhancements, and similar updates, but there are also a handful of new features concentrated in iOS 10.1.

iOS 10.1 adds Portrait Mode to the Camera app for iPhone 7 Plus users. Portrait Mode simulates shallow depth of field photos taken by DSLR cameras by creating a depth map using the dual cameras of the 7 Plus. The result is a foreground image in sharp focus with a blurred background.

In the Photos app, iOS 10.1 improves the display of wide color gamut photos when viewed in the app’s preview grid. In addition, the names of people associated with photos are now included in iCloud backups.

Maps added transit support for the cities of Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya in Japan. Sign-based transit navigation, including the layout of underground structures and walkways in large transit stations, and fare comparisons when viewing alternate transit routes were also added to Maps.

iMessage bubble effects, including ‘slam’ and ‘gentle,’ as well as full-screen effects like 'balloons,' 'confetti,' and 'lasers' can now be replayed in Messages. When you receive a message with effects, iOS 10.1 displays a little replay button below the message. With bubble effects the replay button appears regardless of whether the message you receive is text or a photo. iOS 10.1 also allows users to play effects if Reduce Motion is turned on in the Accessibility settings. In addition, the iMessage app browser has replaced page indicators with a scroll bar so users with lots of sticker packs and iMessage apps no longer have page indicators spilling outside the bounds of the controls below the browser.

In the Activity app, iOS 10.1 adds distance and average pace to workout summaries for outdoor wheelchair run pace and outdoor wheelchair walk pace activities.

Similar to changes to Messages in iOS 10.1, watchOS 3.1 adds the ability to replay messages received with bubble and full screen effects and play effects with Reduce Motion enabled. watchOS 3.1 also includes a handful of bug fixes.

Version 10.12.1 of macOS Sierra primarily improves the ‘stability, compatibility, and and security’ of Macs running Sierra. The update adds a new smart album to the Photos app that collects ‘Depth Effect’ photos taken in Portrait Mode using an iPhone 7 Plus. Sierra also includes improved compatibility with Microsoft’s Office Suite when iCloud Desktop and Documents is turned on.

tvOS received a minor update that fixes unspecified bugs and improves security.