Apple today announced watchOS 2, a new version of the operating system for the increasingly available Apple Watch, promising support for native third-party apps, on-screen video playback, and a collection of many new features for both users and developers. The developer beta for watchOS 2 will be available today, and offered for free to everyone in the fall.

“For us, this is a giant moment,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook, discussing opening up the platform to new and powerful third-party uses before introducing Kevin Lynch to detail features, including…

New Timepiece functions: Apple is adding Photo face, Photo Album face, and a Time-Lapse Face covering five different cities to the collection of Watch faces; Photo and Time-Lapse were slated to be part of watchOS 1.0, but didn’t make the cut. Additionally, Complications are being opened to developers; they’ll work on Modular face and others that support Complications currently. Twisting the Digital Crown, a new feature called Time Travel will let you see meetings and other events in the future all getting updated as the clock moves forward. Additionally, a new Nightstand mode will display the time and an alarm, when the Watch is laid on its side during charging on your nightstand.

Communication: You will now be able to add friends directly through the Friends secreen, and use multiple colors in Digital Touch drawings. Mail will let you reply to email, and Phone will let you receive FaceTime Audio calls with superior audio quality to regular phone calls.

Many more new features, including video playback, are discussed below…

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Health/Fitness: Users’ favorite third-party fitness apps will run natively on the Watch, and contribute to your all-day activity. Siri will be able to start workouts.

Apple Pay: Store and rewards cards will be supported. Wallet will come to watch from iOS 9.

Maps: The Maps app will add mass transit capabilities, including step-by-step directions for mass transit.

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Siri: Apple’s personal digital assistant will now be able to get you mass transit directions, control things in your home using HomeKit, and show you any of your Glances.

On the developer side, third-party apps will be able to run natively on the device, communicate over known Wi-Fi networks. Microphone will become accessible to developers, seemingly including a Voice Memos-styled app for users, and watchOS 2 will be able to play audio through the Watch’s speaker. Video will be able to play on the screen. Heartrate data and other HealthKit info will be developer-accessible. HomeKit will be natively on the Watch for control of accessories. Accelerometer data will be accessible. Taptic Engine will let developers choose audio and tap feeling feedback. Digital Crown will be accessible for UI interactions.

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Apple released Watch OS 1.01 on May 19, adding new emoji, improving Siri, and fixing a collection of bugs. It also debuted a new iPhone-dependent software update process to upgrade the Apple Watch. As explained in our guide to installing watchOS updates, you will need your Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Cable to perform the software update, which is downloaded using the iPhone and wirelessly transferred to the Watch. Originally branded “Watch OS,” the Apple Watch operating system was restyled “watchOS” at WWDC.

Apple Previews New Apple Watch Software

watchOS 2 Introduces Native Third-Party Apps, New Watch Faces & Enhanced Communications Features

SAN FRANCISCO — June 8, 2015 — Apple® today previewed watchOS™ 2, the first major software update for Apple Watch™, giving developers the tools to build faster and more powerful apps running natively on Apple Watch. Starting today, developers can take advantage of innovative hardware features of Apple Watch including the Digital Crown™, Taptic Engine™ and heart rate sensor, along with software APIs to build new app experiences. Available to Apple Watch users this fall, watchOS 2 also includes new watch faces, third-party app information as watch face complications and new communication capabilities in Mail, Friends and Digital Touch.

“We are thrilled with the feedback we’re getting from Apple Watch customers, and after just a few weeks of availability we’re excited for developers to start building native apps for watchOS 2,” said Kevin Lynch, Apple’s vice president of Technology. “We think Apple Watch users will love being able to see information from their favorite apps right on the watch face, and enjoy the many new experiences developers will dream up now that they have access to even more innovative features of Apple Watch.”

WatchKit for watchOS 2 Developers have already created thousands of apps for Apple Watch, and WatchKit now gives them access to key hardware like the Digital Crown, Taptic Engine, heart rate sensor, accelerometer and microphone. New software APIs enable audio and video playback and animation, and with the ClockKit framework, developers can represent their data as complications on the watch face.

These new tools allow developers to make apps more robust. For example, Strava can more accurately track your heart rate while on a ride or run using data from the heart rate sensor and accelerometer; Insteon can give customers more precise controls to dim their lights or control the temperature with the Digital Crown; Volkswagen owners can get haptic feedback when their car door has been locked; WeChat includes audio messaging using the microphone; and Vine can host and play video right in the app.

New Apple Watch Features watchOS 2 lets you turn your favorite photo into a new watch face or view pictures from your favorite photo album with every raise of your wrist with the new Photo and Photo Album watch faces. With the Time-Lapse watch face, choose from a selection of time-lapse videos shot over 24 hours in iconic locations including New York City, London or Shanghai.

A new Time Travel feature lets users scroll with the Digital Crown to explore events in the future (and past) including upcoming meetings or activities, the temperature for the week, and information from third-party apps, such as upcoming flight information.

The latest Apple Watch software provides more creative ways to communicate. With Mail, you can respond quickly using dictation, Smart Replies or emoji. You can create multiple Friends screens, each of which can hold up to twelve friends, and new friends can be added directly on Apple Watch. Digital Touch lets you draw and send sketches with multiple colors on the same canvas, giving you more tools for creative sketches.

Additional watchOS 2 features include:

  • Nightstand Mode that transforms Apple Watch into a bedside alarm clock, with the Digital Crown and side button serving as snooze and off buttons for the alarm;
  • the ability to use merchant rewards and store-issued credit and debit cards with Apple Pay™, which can be added to Wallet;
  • support for Transit in Maps*, so you can view detailed transportation maps and schedules, including walking directions to the nearest stations with entrances and exits precisely mapped;
  • workouts from third-party fitness apps contributing to your all-day Move and Exercise goals;
  • using Siri® to start specific workouts, launch Glances and reply to email; and
  • Activation Lock, which lets users secure their Apple Watch with their Apple ID, preventing another user from wiping or activating the device if it is lost or stolen.

Availability watchOS 2 will be available this fall as a free update to Apple Watch. Apple Watch requires iPhone® 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus running iOS 8.2 or later. The iOS 9 SDK beta including WatchKit for watchOS 2 is available immediately for iOS Developer Program members at developer.apple.com/watchkit. Features are subject to change. Some features may not be available in all regions or all languages.

*Transit information in Maps will be available in select major cities this fall, including Baltimore, Berlin, Chicago, London, Mexico City, New York City, Philadelphia, the San Francisco Bay Area, Toronto and Washington D.C., as well as over 300 cities in China, including Beijing, Chengdu and Shanghai.

Apple revolutionized personal technology with the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984. Today, Apple leads the world in innovation with iPhone, iPad, the Mac and Apple Watch. Apple’s three software platforms — iOS, OS X and watchOS — provide seamless experiences across all Apple devices and empower people with breakthrough services including the App Store, Apple Music, Apple Pay and iCloud. Apple’s 100,000 employees are dedicated to making the best products on earth, and to leaving the world better than we found it.

Apple, the Apple logo, watchOS, Apple Watch, Digital Crown, Taptic Engine, Apple Pay, Siri and iPhone are trademarks of Apple. Other company and product names may be trademarks of their respective owners.

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