watchOS 2: the key features


Rhiannon Williams

September 22, 2015

Apple Watch owners can now upgrade their software to watchOS 2 to access new watch faces, new native apps and even travel through time…

Following a bumpy start, the watchOS 2 software upgrade is now available to download for free, and brings with it a significant number of updates to help you make the most of your Apple Watch.

How to download watchOS 2

  1. Ensure your paired iPhone is running iOS 9 and you’re connected to WiFi.
  2. Open the Apple Watch app
  3. Go to My Watch > General > Software Update > Download and Install
  4. Inpute your iPhone passcode and agree to the Terms and Conditions
  5. Connect the Apple Watch to its charger
  6. Select Install
  7. Your Apple Watch will now download the new software and reboot.
  8. Start exploring watchOS 2

Faster native apps

Through watchOS 2, the Apple Watch can now support third-party native apps for the first time, meaning they work independently on the Watch away from your iPhone. This offers the significant advantage of being much faster than when they’re relayed through the phone. Newly native apps include The Weather Channel, delivery tracking app Parcel and calculator app PCalc .

Third-party workouts

Apple’s new spirit of third-party cooperation means that exercise monitored through non Apple-created apps will now count towards your Workout ring calorie and activity goals, as well as supporting heart rate measured through the Watch’s sensors and Core Motion.

Third-party complications

Complications is Apple’s term for the small information icons displayed on your watch face, which originally consisted of activity rings, the time in a foreign country, a short cut to the stopwatch app and so on. Now, complications have been created for the third party apps, meaning you can now add flight information, breaking news stories, temperature to your watch face.

Reply to emails directly from your wrist

You can now answer emails from your Apple Watch in the same way you’re used to replying to texts – through voice dictation or brief pre-written replies, including “Can I call you later?”, “Got it, thanks” and “Let me take a look…”.


Apple’s lovably caustic digital assistant has been bestowed with new capabilities – namely replying to email, reading out transit directions or starting workouts by uttering “Hey Siri – start a 20 minute run,” or similar. Siri can also open glances (the brief summary notifications) by saying “Hey Siri, show me the Whatsapp glance”.

New watchfaces

Among the most welcome additions are the new watchfaces. Apple has shot a series of timelapse videos in London, Paris, New York, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Mack Lake in Florida, which play for around three seconds each time you raise your wrist. The coolest part is that as the videos were shot over 24 hours, each time the watch face plays, it’s reflective of the sun’s position in the sky as in your current location

If videos aren’t your thing, you can either set your own photo as a background, or set it so a randomly selected image from one of your photo albums appears under the Photo Album watch face.

Stay awake for longer

Thanks to the update, your Watch will now stay awake for a full 70 seconds, compared to its previous time of 15 seconds. I’m not entirely sure what purpose it serves to have the Watch on for so long, but it’s good to have the option.

More friends

You can now add more than 12 friends to your inner circle under the side button (in fact, up to 24), and categorise them via a handy second screen.

Time Travel

Well, not quite in the Back to the Future sense. But the digital crown can now be used to scroll up to 72 hours in the future with help from your calendar, while news and weather can also be added via the new complications feature.

Nightstand Mode

Should you miss the eerie nocturnal glow of a digital alarm clock, turning your Apple Watch on its side when it’s connected to its charger will put it into Nightstand mode, where it displays the time in a ghostly shade of green.

Pressing the side button will turn off an alarm, while pressing the digital crown while activate snooze.

I haven’t used this feature a great deal as even subtle lights tend to interrupt my sleep, but it’s an interesting demonstration of how the Apple Watch is taking on more clock-like responsibilities.

Maps – now with transit

Much like Maps’ makeover thanks to iOS 9, Maps on watchOS 2 will now display transit directions to and from locations across London (sorry non-London dwellers).

This article was written by Rhiannon Williams from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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