Apple Watch OS 2: everything you need to know

watchOS 2 should make the Apple Watch worth it

Apple Watch

Update: Nearly a month after the big watchOS 2 upgrade, there's already an update for the operating system that's out right now. Most significantly, watchOS 2.0.1 should improve your Apple Watch's battery life, offer up new emojis and improve various security measures.

The wrist gadget will also see a ton of refreshed features to enrich your experience: Siri is smarter, public transit will show up in Maps and there are new watch faces.

Apple Watch OS 2 release date

The Watch OS 2 update is finally here (after a five day delay). Just like past major Apple OS updates, the Apple Watch's software upgrade is free.

Apple Watch
Nope

New apps

We've heard about a lot of the forthcoming apps that Watch OS 2 will enable, but it seems that most still aren't available at launch.

The Facebook Messenger app for Watch will finally be able to text, send audio files and share locations right from the wrist.

GoPro will let you use the Apple Watch as a viewfinder so that no matter where your camera is mounted, you'll always know where it's pointed.

iTranslate will let you see, hear and translate over 90 languages by speaking to your Watch. What's more, this will apparently be a 'complication' for the modular Watch face that will present you with relevant phrases at the right time of day.

Since devs now have access to the smartwatch's sensors and controls like the Taptic Engine, Digital Crown and more, we'll get native apps as opposed to ones that are simply ported over. Native apps allow faster run time and greater app capabilities.

Airstrip is a native app that was demoed as a tool doctors can use to better communicate with patients.

Sensors and controls

The Digital Crown provides functionality beyond zooming in and out. Rotating the crown lets you 'Time Travel' showing various events up to 72 hours into the future or past events, right on the watch face. Weather and news headlines are also other complications that Time Travel will work with.

While this is set to be a big part of the Watch, in our time with it we didn't notice much use really. It's cool seeing what the weather will be like, and if you've got your calendar set up perfectly it's neat to see what appointments are coming up.

But until more third-party apps offer complications for this section, we can't say we're enamoured.

Apple Watch Time Travel

The microphone is accessible to other apps now, which means developers will also be able to use your voice in their builds.

Developers now have access to the accelerometer too, so you can expect future apps to utilise this feature. Apple demoed golf app Ping, which measured a player's swing.

Watch display settings

Previously capped at 15 seconds, the Apple Watch is now able to stay on for a whopping 70 seconds; why you'd need this we've not quite worked out, but that option is nice to have.

Apple Watch display settings

Tetherless Wi-Fi

Yes, this sounds exactly like what you think it is. The Apple Watch is able to connect to open Wi-Fi networks without needing to connect to your iPhone first. You'll can leave your phone in another room and your wrist will be a perfectly suitable alternative. Android Wear's latest update already supports this feature, so it's nice to see the iOS device receiving it as well.

Apple Watch

It's been hard to find a time to put this into practice though – you can keep the Watch connection alive in most homes thanks to being close enough.

We can't even find this mode in the Watch itself, so perhaps it auto mirrors from the phone to learn the connected Wi-Fi locations.

Watch faces

There were 10 customizable Apple Watch faces at launch, and as we expected we've now got more to play with.

Apple Watch Modular

Modular looks much nicer with more colors to play with (along with the extra complications to check out).

Apple Watch Time Lapse

Time Lapse: Apple shot time-lapse videos over 24 hours in Hong Kong, London, Mack Lake, New York and Shanghai to create these new faces, and Paris was recently added to the mix. This is one that we're really in to, as it adds an element of dynamism to the Watch, with movement every time you lift your wrist.

It would be brilliant if you could film your own time-lapse here and code it to the correct time stamps; given that the iPhone 6S is going to have a stabilised time-lapse mode, this could be awesome.

Apple Watch Paris

Photo and Album modes: Just like iPhone backgrounds, your collection of pictures is now fodder for your smartwatch faces. It takes a bit of work to get the right photos on there (you have to choose a specific folder to use and then sync it to the Watch), but it adds a really personal touch to your wrist.

Apple Watch Photo

It's hard to work out how to get a single photo on the background though – you'll need to fiddle around a lot to make this work.

Live Photos, enabled from the iPhone 6S by taking a 1.5-second video before and after the shot, will be able to play automatically on the Watch. So if you're thinking of getting a joint bundle of Apple products, you'll like this dynamic new feature.

Apple Watch Music

The interface for the Music looks a bit different after the update as it's been redesigned with new features. Quick Play has been added to make it easier to shuffle your music, a volume level indicator will be displayed, and the source of the audio file will also show up.

Apple Watch Music

Complications

New 'complications' or information in the various watch faces will be able to display third-party apps, although we've currently not seen much from apps that can be added in here.

Flight times and home-controlled systems with Homekit devices will be accessible from your wrist, and your electric car charging information and more should show up soon. The complications can be changed on the Modular face and most of the other faces.

Apple Watch Complications

Nightstand

Nightstand mode flips your Apple Watch face to show horizontally while it's charging. The Digital Crown becomes a snooze button and the side button turns off alarms. If you're not a fan of lights, the display screen won't show unless you touch it or one of the buttons.

It also begins to light up as you get closer to your alarm time – while it's never woken us up with the gentle glow, it's a nice mini alarm clock to have by your side.

Apple Watch Nightstand

Email replies

One option that has been sorely missing will finally make it onto the Apple Watch: email replies. Just like text messages, you're now able to reply directly from your wrist with voice dictation, emojis and smart responses. However you can't edit your messages – this is more about being able to archive or flag messages from the wrist, rather than them being locked into your phone.

Watch OS 2

More about Apple Watch

Apple Watch

Stylish design
Clever interface
Expensive at any level
Battery life of one day

The Apple Watch is ticking away on my wrist right now, and while it's no longer called the iWatch, it really is "my watch" and Apple's most personal gadget yet.

The iPhone 5-and-up-compatible smartwatch comes in 38 flavors, with different case materials, colors, sizes and interchangeable Apple Watch bands. None are inexpensive....

Read the full review: Apple Watch