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The Apple Watch is getting a complete software makeover with watchOS 3

'It's going to feel like a whole new watch'


Mike Wehner


Posted on Jun 13, 2016   Updated on May 26, 2021, 3:09 pm CDT

The Apple Watch has had an interesting first year of life, with a promising launch but also plenty of criticisms lobbed at it across the board. Apple may have found a way to silence the haters, however. At WWDC 2016, the company revealed the latest version of watchOS—and it completely changes how most people will use their Apple smartwatches.

With watchOS 3, the Apple Watch is gaining something that Mac users have relied on for years: a dock. The new dock appears as a series of small dots on the bottom of the watch screen, and allows you to scroll through whatever apps you have customized to reside there. The apps in the doc remain live so there is no lag when switching between apps, which has been a huge issue for the device since its launch.


There’s also a major update to how Watch users can reply to messages. In watchOS 2, you can reply via pre-made blurbs or emoji, or resort to dictation and have the watch write out a reply for you, but these tools aren’t ideal in many situations. Now, a new watchOS 3 feature called Scribble lets you actually write out a reply right on the watch screen by drawing letters one at a time.

If you’re into meditation, a new app called Breathe will guide you through brief deep-breathing exercises right from the watch, and you can customize how long you’d like your session to last. The watch will track your heart rate throughout the exercise to give you an idea of how well you’ve been able to relax throughout each session.

Despite all these great features, the one upgrade that is likely to make the most difference for current Apple Watch users is a dramatic increase in responsiveness when navigating the device. No direct improvement stats were offered, but in a demonstration of the software’s new speed, taps and app launches happened virtually instantly, compared to the laggy, seconds-long delay that currently plagues the device and many of its apps.

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*First Published: Jun 13, 2016, 1:48 pm CDT