Posts tagged with "watchOS"

Apple Highlights Apps with watchOS 4.2 Features for Skiers and Snowboarders

Apple released watchOS 4.2 in December with new workout APIs for skiing and snowboarding workouts. Those additions have allowed third-party developers to offer an enhanced workout experience to Apple Watch Series 3 users when they hit the slopes. In a press release today, which was timed with the release of updates to several popular skiing apps, Apple said:

Developers are taking advantage of the built-in GPS and altimeter in Apple Watch Series 3 as well as custom workout APIs released in watchOS 4.2 to enable tracking of specialized metrics. App updates for snoww, Slopes, Squaw Alpine, Snocru and Ski Tracks now track new metrics on the slopes including:

  • Total vertical descent and horizontal distance
  • Number of runs
  • Average and maximum speeds
  • Total time spent
  • Calories burned

The new workout features include other benefits for skiers and snowboarders too:

Apps can auto pause and resume and users will get credit towards their Activity rings; workout information will also be recorded to the Health app on iPhone with user permission. Using Siri, users can start Slopes and snoww to track their runs using just their voice.

Apps that take advantage of the new watchOS 4.2 features are also spotlighted in the App Store’s Today section and include:

There’s more Apple could do to improve the overall experience of developing for watchOS, but it’s good to see the workout APIs continue to expand and third-party developers take advantage of them.


WatchKit as a “Sweet Solution”

Marco Arment (who’s been struggling with Watch app development for a while now) makes the case for WatchKit to be either discontinued or substantially expanded as, in its current form, it hinders the creation of more powerful apps.

Developing Apple Watch apps is extremely frustrating and limited for one big reason: unlike on iOS, Apple doesn’t give app developers access to the same watchOS frameworks that they use on Apple Watch.

Instead, we’re only allowed to use WatchKit, a baby UI framework that would’ve seemed rudimentary to developers even in the 1990s. But unlike the iPhone’s web apps, WatchKit doesn’t appear to be a stopgap — it seems to be Apple’s long-term solution to third-party app development on the Apple Watch.

When I first read his post, I thought that asking Apple to discontinue and replace WatchKit was perhaps too much. But after spending some time reorganizing my Watch favorites and complications last night and this morning, I agree with Marco. My favorite apps on the Watch are all made by Apple and are not based on WatchKit. The only exception is Workouts++ (which, as a workout app, has specific privileges). The only third-party Watch apps I regularly use besides Smith’s app are Things and Shazam (which is somewhat ironic) and they’re both accessed via complications; they’re okay, but I don’t love them because they’re often slow to sync data with their iPhone counterparts or take too long to launch and be in a usable state. When I’m out and about, I still don’t trust Watch apps to be as reliable as iPhone apps.

Despite three years of watchOS updates and more powerful hardware (I use a Series 3), the Apple Watch still doesn’t feel like the rich, diverse, and vibrant app platform that the iPhone is. Some might say that’s precisely the point – it doesn’t have to be because the Watch works best through notifications and complications. However, I often ask myself if such argument is the wearable equivalent of Aesop’s sour grapesreal Watch apps wouldn’t make sense anyway. Like Marco, I wonder what would happen if only Apple exposed real watchOS development tools to app makers.

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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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