WatchOS is the operating system of Apple Watch, which was introduced in 2014, along with Apple’s first smartwatch. In this article, you can read all about the software that keeps Apple Watch running. We start with the functions of watchOS 1.0, which still contained many restrictions. In the fall of 2015, watchOS 2.0 will be available, which will greatly expand the possibilities for developers. They can now, for example, show apps on the clock face and build apps that pull information directly from the Internet, without requiring an iPhone.

What is watchOS?

watchOS is the operating system of Apple Watch. It ensures that the watch works seamlessly with the iPhone. watchOS is largely based on iOS, the operating system of the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. But there are also differences: watchOS has its own features like the clock that you can customize to your liking with several watch faces (clock faces) and an activity app that measures how much you move.

Apple introduced the watchOS 1.0 on the first Apple Watch. It is the software that controls everything on the watch, such as apps, clock faces, quick-look capability and Digital Touch. With watchOS 1, Apple set the standard for all the basic functions that are used on the Apple Watch. An overview of software functionality on the Apple Watch:

Clock face – You can set and adjust a clock for Apple Watch. You can add additional pages using complications to the clock face, such as for example a calendar.
Integrated apps – Apple Watch comes standard with a number of apps from Apple itself, such as the Clock app, the activity app that tracks your movements and Workout app for sports.
Support for WatchKit Apps – You can use apps with watchOS 1 but these apps are only partially installed on the Apple Watch. You need to download them wirelessly from the iPhone. This causes delay.
Digital Touch – With the push of a button on the watch you can send messages or call a contact. Press Digital Touch from this interface to send someone drawings, taps or even your heartbeat.

In May 2015, Apple released 1.0.1 watchOS update. watchOS 1.0.1 contains bug fixes and minor improvements. New emoji were added, and the activity measurement and accessibility of apps were improved.

watchOS 2

watchOS 2 was announced at WWDC 2015 and has a number of improvements over the first version of the software. It is the first major update to watchOS since the introduction of the Apple Watch.

Release Date watchOS 2
watchOS 2 was first shown during the WWDC 2015, an annual conference Apple organizes for developers. Kevin Lynch, Apple’s Vice President of Technology, reported here that watchOS 2 will be available this fall as a free update for all Apple Watch models. A beta version for developers appeared the same day so that developers can already get started.

watchOS 2: Native apps

Main addition is the ability to install native apps on the Apple Watch. These native apps work without interference from the iPhone. They can obtain information directly from the Internet via the Wi-Fi network. This was not possible with watchOS 1.0 since applications could only address features on the iPhone. Because the apps are stored at watchOS 2.0 locally, they are many times faster.

Apple Watch Native Apps
Native apps on the Apple Watch.

Accessing the sensors and data has also been improved for developers. IN watchOS 2.0, developers can create apps that use the microphone, audio and video playback, use Healthkit for health data and use HomeKit control smart devices in the home. Also, apps can use the taptic engine to knock on your wrist and you can operate applications with the digital crown.

watchOS 2: Complications
Watch Faces on the Watch in Apple watchOS 2.0 also become much more interactive. For example, apps can add complications to a watch face. It is thus possible for apps to display information directly on the clock face. For example, you see how much power you have on any electric car, or how many messages you have to read on Twitter.
Apple Watch complications

watchOS 2: Time Travel
Time Travel has been added to the clock face of watchOS 2. If you turn the digital crown, it puts the clock forward or backward in time. All complications on the clock also change. You see future appointments if you turn forward the digital crown. How hot is it tomorrow? Turn the digital crown 24 hours ahead and you see the temperature at the weather forecast. You see quite quickly what is going to happen, without having to open apps.
Apple Watch Time Travel

watchOS2: Night Stand Mode
Apple Watch Night Stand Mode
If you put the Apple Watch on the charger, the clock face turns into an alarm clock. This is the special Night Stand mode, designed for the bedside table. The clock on the Apple Watch is automatically tilted, so you can read it easily if you are in bed. By knocking on the bedside table, the clock face turns on, so you can see what time it is. If the alarm goes off, you can use the digital crown and friends button to snooze or turn off the alarm.

watchOS 2: New clock faces
Apple Watch Faces
Another new addition is the new watch faces, which gives the clock on the Apple Watch a personal appearance. You can select a favorite photo on the clock face or a series of changing photographs. There are also two time-lapse watch faces, showing the view of a city while the clouds and traffic changing.

watchOS 2: Small improvements

  • There are many more small improvements in watchOS 2.0:
  • Developers have better access to hardware features
  • Drawings in different colors.
  • Easily add friends.
  • Multiple screens for friends, so you’re no longer limited to the total of 12.
  • Not only read e-mail, but also answer directly.
  • FaceTime Audio is supported.
  • Health and fitness apps running natively on Apple Watch and send information to your personal activities meter.
  • Siri can now also launch a sports session.
  • You can instantly share from Apple Watch your sports activities on Facebook, Twitter or iMessage.
  • Other fitness apps like Strava make sure the rings grow in the Activity app.
  • Medals that you receive contain your name and the date of the performance.
  • All features of Wallet (formerly Passbook) are now available on Apple Watch.
  • With HomeKit you can control your lights and other equipment at home from your Watch.
  • You can now watch videos on the Watch, for example, a vine-movie.
  • In the Maps app you can see routes with public transport (in limited number of cities).
  • You can use Siri to open a quick look
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