Apple Releases watchOS 3, Bringing a Range of Enhancements and New Features to the Apple Watch

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Apple has today released watchOS 3, proudly claiming that this release will let you “do more in an instant”:

With the latest watchOS, apps launch instantly and are easier to access. You can choose from a range of watch faces and share your daily activity with friends. The Breathe app helps you stay healthy by taking a moment for yourself every day. And messages are more expressive and delightful. It’s the world’s most loved smartwatch — now with even more to love.

The New Features That We Think You Will Like

Faster Apps and a More Streamlined Design

The Apple Watch has gained a Dock to provide quick and easy access to the apps that you most frequently use. You choose which apps are shown here, and Apple claims that those selected should load much faster than in previous versions of watchOS as they are quietly keeping themselves up-to-date in the background.

The Dock is accessed by a single press of the side button on the Watch. Previously, this would have provided quick access to a list of your ‘Friends’. This feature is now gone, as are Apple Watch ‘Glances’. New in watchOS 3 is a Control Center, providing you access to the most used settings.

Other Changes in watchOS 3

  • More watch faces are available, with more complication options, and an easy way to quickly change the current face (see the accessibility changes later in this post).
  • You can now share your Activity Rings with others to increase motivation.
  • The Activity app now supports wheelchair users.
  • It’s now easier to monitor Workouts and keep track of the most important metrics.
  • A new Breathe app guides you through a series of deep breaths that can help you better manage everyday stress or just experience a few calming moments.
  • Sending and replying to Messages from the Apple Watch has got quicker, whilst features such as larger emoji, stickers and effects make the experience similar to that on iOS 10.
  • An Apple Watch can now be used to securely unlock your Mac if it is running macOS 10.12 Sierra.
  • Press and hold the side button and no matter where you are in the world, SOS initiates a call with local emergency services. SOS can also send a message to quickly alert your emergency contacts. This can be disabled by going to the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, then to General> Emergency SOS>Hold to Auto Call.

For a more complete list of what’s new in watchOS 3, MacRumors offers a good overview.

And What About Accessibility?

watchOS 3 brings a number of substantive new features and enhancements for blind and low vision users:

  • Taptic time-telling is now native. You configure this in the Watch app on your iPhone. When it's on, quickly double-tap the watch face when it's locked to feel the full time, or triple tap for just the minutes. You can choose from a range of vibration patterns that will tell you the time. Think TimeBuzz, but now built in to watchOS.
  • You can select one or more Complications to be spoken when you wake your Watch. Simply touch the complication, swipe up to “Enable Auto Speak," and double-tap. Repeat for any Complications you want. When you tap your Watch, it will now speak the time, followed by the complication(s) you've set to be auto-spoken. Use the same process to turn the feature off.
  • The VoiceOver 1 finger flick up or down gesture has been changed to include the new Control Centre, Enable Auto Speak, and Activate Item. Notification Centre is still included.
  • A two-finger swipe left or right on your watch face will move between all your enabled faces.
  • In the new Application Dock, accessed with a single press of the side button, swiping up or down with one finger will offer three options. You can remove the selected app from the dock; move left; or move right, similar to how movement through glances worked in watchOS 2.
  • On the Watch screen that displays all available apps, swiping up or down with one finger will offer two options. You can ‘Activate’ the app or ‘Arrange Apps’. Selecting the second of these will allow you to now use the one-finger swipe up or down to move the position of the selected app either left or right.
  • Some Complications are now available on the Xtra Large watch face.
  • Although not specifically related to accessibility, some may be pleased to know that watch faces can now be managed from the Watch app on the iPhone. This includes changing colors and choosing Complications.

Scott Davert has recorded a podcast in which he showcases some of these new features and changes.

How to Update to watchOS 3

watchOS 3 is available by going to the Watch app on your iPhone and navigating to General> Software Update. To install the update, your Watch must be connected to its charger and have at least 50% battery power.

More information on how to update the software on your Apple Watch is available on this Apple Support page.

As always, we look forward to hearing your thoughts on this update.

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Submitted by Roxann Pollard on Thursday, September 15, 2016

Before I updated to Watch OS 3, I was able to view the individual stand hours, which showed any hour I was inactive. Now with the latest release, I am unable to find this info. Anyone know how to see this view?

Any help is appreciated.

Submitted by Joseph on Saturday, September 17, 2016

my favorite feature is probably the taptic time-telling. Comes in handy if I'm in class and need to check the time.

Submitted by Igna Triay on Saturday, September 17, 2016

Yeah, that feature is great