Top 15 watchOS 3 Features and Interface Changes

BY Khamosh Pathak

Published 13 Sep 2016

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Ever since WWDC 2016, everyone’s been talking up watchOS 3. Some say it’s what the Apple Watch should have released with. Some say it’s enough for them to start using the Apple Watch again. Some say it might just boast Apple Watch sales. Is it just hype? I’m here to tell you – it’s all true. watchOS 3 is majestic.

I’ve been using the watchOS 3 betas for the last couple of weeks and I can’t wait to try out the stable version with updated third party apps and complications. But even before that, there’s plenty of new awesome features to love in watchOS 3.

1. Swiping Between Watch Faces

One of the best new features on watchOS 3 is staring at you, every time you lift up your wrist. Just swipe in from the left or right edge of the screen to switch between watch faces. This is so much better and faster than watchOS 2.

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This also means that you’ll now be able to set up multiple watch faces – say Modular when you’re at work, Activity when you’re working out and Numerals when you’re out and about and switch between them depending on the context.

2. The Dock

The biggest, most noticeable change in watchOS 3 is made up of multiple things.

First of all, Glances are gone. Swiping up from the bottom of the screen gets you Control Center and that’s it.

Also gone is the “Friends” screen that showed up by clicking the Side button.

Now, the Side button brings up something new – the Dock.

What’s in the Dock you ask?

watchos 3 dock 7

It’s your favorite apps. Your most used apps. Frozen in time, updated periodically in the background.

This means you’ll have almost instant access to your favorite apps and you’ll be able to launch them without going to the App launcher screen (which is still there, if you need it).

When you’re scrolling through them, the apps in the Dock act much like Glances, showing you latest information. When you tap it, that’s when the magic happens. The app opens almost instantaneously. It’s actually 5 to 7 seconds – faster than watchOS 2. That’s because these apps are kept in memory.

Apple will add your most used apps here, and you can also manually add apps here.

Read more: Check out our guide on customizing the Dock.

3. Everything’s Just So Much Faster

This is thanks to all the under the hood changes in watchOS 3. Everything feels so much snappier. Apps that have been updated for watchOS 3, Apple’s own apps like Workout and Timer launch almost instantly. And I can’t wait for third party developers to update their apps.

If all of them launch this fast, I actually might start using these apps for doing quick things I use iPhone for right now – logging my weight every morning, tracking expenses, tracking work hours and checking on social network notifications.

4. Control Center

watchos 3 control center

Glances have been replaced by Control Center. And it’s pretty simple. Swipe up and you’ll see buttons for things like Do Not Disturb, Airplane Mode, AirPlay, Silent mode and most importantly, the battery percentage.

5. Cool New Watch Faces

There are 3 new watch faces – Minnie Mouse, Activity, and Numerals. Activity Analog is my favorite watch face. Perfect mix of retro analog dial and modern Activity rings.

watchos 3 activity analog watch face

Numerals comes close second. It’s just so cool.

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Minnie Mouse rightfully complements the Mickey Mouse watch face. Finally. When you tap the watch face, she reads out the time out loud.

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Read: We’ve got photos and more information about all the new watch faces, check them out here.

6. Customize Watch Faces From Watch App

The Watch app in iOS 10 has a new tab called Face Gallery where you can view different combinations for all watch faces. Quickly add them, customize them and make them the primary watch face. It’s much easier to do from the app than on the Watch.

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Also new in watchOS 3 is the ability to reorder watch faces. You can only do it from the Watch app though.

Read more: Check out our guide on customizing watch faces here.

7. Workout Screen

In watchOS 3, if you wanted to view different stats when working out – like your calories burned or time elapsed, you’d have to swipe to a different screen every single time.

watchos 3 workout screen

Well, no more. The workout stats screen is now one. For example, in Outdoor Walk, you get 4 different stats – Duration, Active Calories, Heart Rate and Distance – all in one screen.

Plus you can customize this or switch back to the old pane based view by opening the Watch app on your iPhone and from “My Watch” tab, go to “Workout” section.

8. Breathe App

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Another leaf in the watchOS 3’s fitness and wellness handbook. The Breathe app will help you practice mindfulness for a couple of minutes every day. It’s a very well designed app and a joy to use. IT will tell you when to inhale and exhale using a calming animation on screen (and also using Taptic vibration feedback).

Read mode: Check out our guide here to know more about how it works.

9. Scribble To Reply

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Probably only of my favorite things in watchOS 3. I never liked the audio reply or transcript feature watchOS 2. Now, you can literally write your reply from the Watch. It’s one letter at a time. But still, it’s surprisingly accurate and fast. When replying, just tap the “Scribble” button to get started.

Read more: Check out our guide on using the Scribble feature here.

10. Effects in iMessage

Messages app saw the biggest update in iOS 10. So many new features like bubble effects, iMessage apps, emoji replacement and yes, stickers.

On the Messages app on the Watch, you can’t send messages with bubble effects, but you can view the effects.

What you can send are stickers. They’re tough to find. And the stickers on the Watch mirror the stickers you have installed on your iPhone.

watchos 3 stickers

To send a sticker from the Watch, go to the reply screen in iMessage and tap the “Emoji” button. The first screen will be about emojis. Swipe to the next screen and you’ll see your installed stickers there. Use the Digital Crown to switch between them.

11. Less of Force Touch

This has been an overarching theme with watchOS 3, at least in stock apps. Things that would normally need Force Touch now doesn’t. These options now show up on a different page.

I personally like this. I was never too comfortable using Force Touch on the Watch. It always felt awkward, pressing deeper on the Watch screen.

12. Find The Apple Watch from iPhone

For the longest time, you’ve been able to ping the iPhone using Apple Watch. Now you can do the opposite as well.

If you can’t find your Apple Watch , open the Watch app on your iPhone, tap on your Apple Watch, then tap on the “I” next to the Apple Watch’s name and from the next screen select “Find my Apple Watch”.

13. Find Your Friends

Another new stock app in watchOS 3 is the Find my Friends app. Using the app you’ll be able to see the location and details for the friends and family member who you’ve added to the app.

14. Unlock The Mac Using Apple Watch

Another big thing that kind of messy to set up. But once enabled, very much worth it. You can now unlock your Mac (that’s running macOS Sierra), when you walk up to it and start using it, as long as you’re wearing your Apple Watch.

And before you ask, this is totally, over the top secured. In a typical Apple way. Here’s Craig Federighi talking about it.

“The big challenge with Auto-unlock is you don’t want a kind of, a relay attack, where Phil is actually, well far away from his office, and someone basically has a Bluetooth listener that’s going to forward a signal to you, ‘cos you’re now by his Mac, and this Mac is having a conversation with Phil’s watch over a very long distance.”

He added “And so, we’re actually able to do time-of-flight calculation using peer-to-peer Wi-Fi, where we literally can measure how long (at the speed of light) it’s taking for the signal to travel from your watch to your Mac and back!”

The only issue? You’ll need to have 2 Factor Authentication enabled on all your devices.

15. SOS

watchos 3 sos

SOS is Apple’s distress call feature. And it works in no matter which country you’re in. All you have to do is hold the side button for couple of seconds (or click the side button and then swipe on the SOS slider) and your distress call will be registered with the local authorities.

Your Favorite New watchOS 3 Feature?

What new feature in watchOS 3 has you the most excited? Have you found a new killer watchOS 3 app? Share with us in the comments below.