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Posts tagged with "watchOS"

watchOS 7: The MacStories Overview

It’s WWDC week, and while we’ve been deprived the pleasure of meeting up in person this year, Apple’s OS updates are rolling forward like always. In this morning’s keynote address, Apple VP of Technology Kevin Lynch announced the latest version of the Apple Watch operating system. watchOS 7 isn’t as dramatic as some past releases have been, but it does introduce some excellent new features including sleep tracking, multiple distinct complications from the same app, a Shortcuts app, and new workout types. We’ll dive into all the features in depth below.

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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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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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FlickType Keyboard Review: Real Typing on an Apple Watch Display

The Apple Watch is steadily moving toward full independence from the iPhone. Making cellular an option, adding new apps at a healthy pace, and enabling apps to be downloaded and run independent of an iPhone are all crucial steps toward the device becoming entirely untethered. I have a cellular Apple Watch and go running with it each week without bringing my iPhone along, and it works great. I’ve even gone to a couple of doctor’s appointments with only my Watch, and the list of things I miss my phone for in those cases is now minimal.

One time the device still falls flat, however, is when I need to send a message. Scribble is too slow for more than a word or two, dictation is hit-or-miss, and canned responses aren’t good enough for most situations. FlickType Keyboard sets out to solve this problem, and entirely succeeds.

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Matt Birchler’s watchOS 7 Wish List

Matt Birchler has made a tradition of publishing a watchOS wish list every year at BirchTree that is accompanied by concept art, showing how his ideas might be implemented. This year for watchOS 7, Birchler has a long list of excellent ideas that focus on virtually every aspect of the OS, including fitness tracking, communications, and battery life.

Like Birchler, I’d love to see more flexibility built into the Activity app. For example, he expects more ring options in watchOS 7:

I think this year not only will Apple let you customize these rings more than before, but they’ll also add more rings. Want to add sleep or mindfulness: go right ahead.

As he suggests, the ability to set custom metrics for each ring and edit workouts in the Activity app on the iPhone would be fantastic additions as well.

It’s also a little hard to believe that autocomplete hasn’t been added to the scribble keyboard on the Apple Watch. Perhaps that’s a technical limitation, but like Birchler, I think it would go a long way to making text input more tolerable on the Watch.

Those are just a couple of my favorite ideas from Birchler’s story this year. Be sure to check out the full post. There are some terrific ideas here, and the concept art looks wonderful as always.

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HomeRun: Quickly Trigger HomeKit Scenes on Your Apple Watch

HomeRun is a simple, elegant utility for triggering HomeKit scenes from your Apple Watch. Through a combination of color and iconography, HomeRun developer Aaron Pearce, who is the creator of other excellent HomeKit apps like HomeCam and HomePass, creates an effective solution for accessing HomeKit scenes from your wrist. It’s a user-friendly approach that’s a fantastic alternative for HomeKit device users frustrated by Apple’s Home app.

Apple’s Home app is hard to use on the Apple Watch. First, when you open Home on the Watch, it’s not clear what you’re seeing. Home presents a series of card-like, monochrome scene and accessory buttons that you scroll through one or two at a time. Although the app doesn’t say so, these are the favorite scenes and accessories from the Home tab of the iOS app. That makes the list customizable, which is nice, but the app should do a better job identifying where the user is in relationship to the iOS app.

Second, although you can rearrange your Home favorites to reorder them on the Watch too, you can only see two scenes or one accessory at a time. Depending on how many favorites you have, that limits the Watch app’s utility because a long list of scenes and accessories requires a lot of swiping or scrolling with the Digital Crown.

HomeRun avoids this by eliminating text and relying on color and iconography to distinguish between scenes. The app is also limited to triggering scenes, reducing potential clutter further. The approach allows HomeRun to display up to 12 scenes on a single screen of a 44mm Apple Watch compared to the two scene buttons that Home can display. If you set up more than 12 scenes, they are accessible by scrolling.

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Apple Releases New App Design Resources for the Mac and Apple Watch

As tweeted by Mike Stern, Apple’s Platform Experience and Design Evangelism Manager, Apple has updated its AppKit design resources with a comprehensive set of UI elements for making Mac apps. The UI elements come in both Aqua and the Dark Aqua variants for designing Dark Mode Mac apps.

The update, also announced on Apple’s developer news website, includes new watchOS UI elements too, including ‘dozens of new UI elements for watchOS apps, watch face templates for designing complications, a color guide, and new text styles.’

The design assets are available to download in both Photoshop and Sketch formats from the Resources section of Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines website. A full list of all the changes is available here.


Apple Releases watchOS 4.3 with iPhone Music Controls, Portrait Nightstand Mode, and More

Following iOS 11.3, Apple also released watchOS 4.3 to the public today. The updated Apple Watch software, first released as a developer beta in January, brings a variety of improvements for music playback, a smarter Siri watch face, and bug fixes.

In watchOS 4.3, Apple has restored the ability to browse the entire iPhone music library and control iPhone music playback from the Watch. The lack of full iPhone playback control was one of the most criticized aspects of the Music app refresh on watchOS 4, and it’s nice to see Apple rectify this feature with today’s update.

Also on the music front, watchOS 4.3 allows HomePod owners to control playback and adjust volume of the speaker directly from the Watch. In the Now Playing screen, you can tap on the AirPlay icon (in the bottom left corner) to instantly connect to a HomePod on the same WiFi network, after which you’ll be able to spin the Digital Crown to adjust its volume – all without having to connect to the HomePod through the iPhone first. As someone who routinely listens to Music via the kitchen HomePod while doing something else around the house, I’ve greatly enjoyed the ability to connect and change volume from my wrist.

There are a couple of noteworthy additions to the Siri watch face in watchOS 4.3. First, a new Activity card provides you with a handy summary of the progress you’re making toward closing your rings. The card is updated in real-time during the day, so you can glance at it without opening the main Activity app. Furthermore, on days when one of your Apple Music mixes gets an update, the Siri watch face will bring up a card with a thumbnail preview of the playlist and a message that tells you an updated version of the mix is available.

Lastly, in addition to various bug fixes, watchOS 4.3 brings support for portrait orientation in Nightstand mode (likely in preparation for the company’s AirPower charging mat) along with a refreshed charging animation. I’ve long charged my Watch using a portrait-oriented Belkin Valet charger that sits on my desk, and I like how Nightstand mode is now an option for me.

As I wrote earlier this month, the changes introduced in watchOS 4.3 have helped me enjoy the benefits of Apple’s ecosystem as they integrate the Watch more deeply with my iPhone and HomePods. The update is available now, and you can read our original review of watchOS 4 here.


Leaving the “Series 0” Apple Watch Behind

I’ve been keeping an eye on the adoption of the Apple Watch Series 3 since its introduction last fall. From a development perspective the Series 3 is a delight to work with. It is fast, capable and LTE allows a wide variety of new applications (for example, the podcast support I added to Workouts++).

This stands in contrast to the challenges of working with the Series 0 (or Apple Watch (1st generation) as Apple would call it). It is just slow and honestly a bit painful to develop for. Even basic things like deploying your application to the watch can take uncomfortably long amounts of time. In daily use the Series 0 is probably “good enough” for many customers, especially with the speed/stability improvements added in watchOS 4, but as a developer I can’t wait until I no longer have to support it.

Which is why I’ve been watching the Apple Watch adoption curve within my apps (specifically Pedometer++ for this analysis) quite carefully. My personal hope is that this summer when we get watchOS 5 it will drop support for the Series 0 and free Apple to really push forward on what is possible for developers. But in order for that wish to be realistic I imagine Apple will need the daily use of those first watches to have died down significantly.

These are fascinating numbers about the adoption of different Apple Watch models by David Smith, who makes some of the best apps for the platform.

I’ve been wondering about when Apple could drop support for the original Apple Watch in new versions of watchOS. For context, the original iPhone, launched in 2007, couldn’t be updated to iOS 4 in 2010, three years later. The Apple Watch will have its official third anniversary next month. I suppose that Apple Watch owners hold onto their devices for longer, but if old hardware is stifling innovation for the developer community who wants to push Watch apps forward (as much as that is possible with the current tools), then maybe it is time for Apple to move on.

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