An Apple WWDC reflection: Part 2 – watchOS and tvOS

WWDC 2018 part 2
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Last week, I wrote about all the new iOS 12 features announced at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, including digital health, AR, group Facetime, group notifications and Siri shortcuts. You can check that out here. This week, I’ll be taking on watchOS and tvOS in part two of my WWDC reflection.

watchOS

One can argue that Apple is a luxury brand. When the company got into watches they introduced a very expensive Gold Apple Watch, which was to the excitement of many and to the ownership of nobody I know. This is a good thing, since I would probably criticize anyone with an Apple Watch for wasting their money. In return, I would likely hear the argument that it is a great investment intended to be handed down to future grandchildren, similar to a Rolex. Well, that hopeful idea is about to disappear, since support for the introductory watch ended with watchOS 5.

With all this said I personally have an Apple Watch (2) and really love it. In fact, I can see myself upgrading every few years and consistently having one on my arm. So, as a watchOS user I was eager to hear about the new updates unveiled in its fifth iteration. Let’s break some of these fun new features down, from the useful to the unimpressive.

Walkie-talkie app

Example of walkie-talkie app on watchOS
With watchOS 5, Apple has introduced a new and unexpected way to stay connected to your friends and family. The Walkie-Talkie App, which one could argue is the headline feature of watchOS, offers “an entirely new way to communicate” by merging real-time voice conversations with the spontaneity of messaging. The App works like a traditional Walkie-Talkie, with press-to-talk communication. I’m surprised this has taken so long to arrive, since everyone was calling the Apple Watch a Dick Tracy device since it’s initial release. I look forward to trying this out but wonder if it will be a pain for those around me to have to listen to.

Activity competitions

Example of activities app on watchOSI am currently sharing my workout rings with a few people. I found that in order to keep up with everyone, I can simply lower the amount of exercise required to close my rings. This is great for the psyche but not so much for my body. Given this tendency for workout hacks, you can guess that the new competition mode isn’t for me but rather for those who want push themselves. To motivate you to work out, watchOS 5 lets you challenge friends to a seven-day competition to see who can earn the most activity points. Regular progress reports let you know where you and your friends stand, with the winner receiving a special award. Again, not the ideal product for me but definitely a useful app for competitive types.

Automatic workout detection

UI of the automatic workout detection on watchOSExercising with the Apple watch is helpful. When my kids are at swimming club or water polo practice, I like to swim while tracking my laps and being motivated by my progress. However, I often forget to push the start button, and end up doing five or six laps before realizing my mistake. That’s why i think the new automatic workout detection feature is a much needed addition and can help accurately track my workout. With this feature, the workout will begin automatically when I start swimming, which I am a big fan of. Automatic workout detection works with Outdoor Run, Indoor Run, Outdoor Walk, Indoor Walk, Elliptical, Rower, Open Water Swim and my personal favourite – Pool Swim.

New workout modes

UI screen of the new workout mode on watchOSSeveral new workout types have been added to the Apple watch, including yoga and hiking. The update also shines a spotlight on outdoor runs, with support for rolling mile pace and custom pace alerts as well as better tracking capabilities. I like this a lot. We do yoga once or twice a week at the Two Tall Totems office and it’s nice to have the option of recording our sessions. Our team is also committed to doing a weekly hike, typically the Vancouver Grouse Grind, which can now be tracked by the Apple watch. It’s an update oriented towards the outdoors, perhaps a compliment to the Grouse Mountain app that TTT helped build.

Raise my Wrist to Speak to Siri

Currently I only use Siri on my Apple Watch by holding down the crown, however I know many people use the “Hey Siri” feature instead. With watchOS 5 there is a whole new way of interacting with Siri, and it just involves a simple raise of the wrist. I’m unsure whether or not I will take advantage of this function, but I’m confident it will be a convenient tool for many users.

Webkit integration

WatchOS 5 integrates WebKit for the first time – which is a very big deal. Webkit is what many modern browsers are based on and what I think has limited the media types that can be used on the Apple Watch. Now you can view website content from apps like Mail or Messages on your wrist, with the option to click on links and load sites on the Apple Watch. It’s not full Safari support, but it lets me do more without having to open up my iPhone.

Podcast app

Podcasts are now available on the Apple Watch, an update which I would argue is long overdue. The dedicated app will sync with the Podcast app on your iPhone, as well as a new Podcasts complication. I still tend to use my iPhone over my watch for music and podcasts, but for those who bought the Apple Watch 3 to completely untether this would be a very welcomed feature.

Additional features

Apart from the updates mentioned above, i’d like to give a shoutout to additional features announced at WWDC:

    • Memories in Photo face
    • Wind direction and wind speed
    • UV index and air quality in the Weather app
    • An emoji picker
    • Scheduled do not disturb options
    • A customizable control center
  • Answer FaceTime calls as audio without needing the iPhone

tvOS 12

I am quite devoted to the Apple TV. We have one in each meeting room at the TTT office and I use one at home as well. I feel like it has a lot of potential, so I was hoping to see some big upgrades come out of WWDC. Sadly there isn’t too much to report on, short of a sound upgrade and third party remote control options.

Dolby Atmos

Example of Dolby Atmos on tvOSThe Apple TV 4K can now support Dolby Atmos, making it the only set-top box that’s certified for Dolby Vision visuals and Dolby Atmos audio. This is a great sales advantage for the serious sound nerd. Dolby Atmos is one of the highest-quality surround sound formats available today. It adds to the more widely known 5.1 surround sound formats — like Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus — with dedicated “height” channels designed to more precisely locate sound in space. As a sweetener, any iTunes content that has already been purchased will get a free Dolby Atmos upgrade, if available. This gives you a great reason to start saving up for a more expensive set of speakers.

Remote controls

There’s good news for remote control fans, as Apple is opening up the Apple TV to third-party remote makers. Other manufacturers will also be able to include Siri support in their devices. Moreover, the iOS Control Centre is getting a dedicated Apple TV control tile so you can easily operate your Apple set-top box from your Apple phone. As with the entire tvOS update, this function is probably helpful for some, but definitely not revolutionary.

There you have it, a breakdown of watchOS and tvOS. Next week I’ll be taking on macOS and CarPlay in the final instalment of my WWDC Reflection. Stay tuned!

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