Apple Releases watchOS 2, Bringing a Range of Refinements and New Features to the Apple Watch

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Apple has today released watchOS 2, marking the first major update to the Apple Watch operating system since the device was released in April.

According to Apple. this release brings a mixture of refinements and new features to the Apple Watch:

With watchOS 2, we’ve refined it. There are more faces to choose from. Faster, more powerful apps. Enhanced communication options. And innovative new ways to make your Apple Watch your own.

The new features that we think you will like

For blind and low vision users, the addition of new Watch faces may not excite. However, the ability to use 3rd-party Complications on Apple Watch faces may. For those who do not own an Apple Watch, so may not know what these are, a complication refers to any feature in a timepiece beyond the simple display of hours and minutes. In the case of the Apple Watch, these are elements on the clock face which display things such as the battery level, your next appointment, the current temperature, sunrise and sunset times, and so on. In most cases, double-tapping on a complication will take you to the related Watch app. It’s going to be interesting to see where developers go with this; It’s possible that some might even find ways to use this to specifically enhance the functionality and experience of the Watch for blind and low vision users.

Perhaps the most widely-anticipated change in watchOS 2 is support for native apps, which means that they run entirely on your Apple Watch. With these apps no longer needing to dynamically retrieve data from your iPhone, they should load more quickly and have the potential to offer greater capabilities.

Developers can also now use some of the features of the Apple Watch in their apps, such as the Taptic Engine, Digital Crown, accelerometer, speaker and microphone. In addition to the increased functionality that this should bring to mainstream apps, it’s also something else which those developing apps specifically for blind and low vision users could utilize to enhance the experience and feature-set of the Apple Watch.

Apple Maps on the Watch now includes information on public transport In selected cities around the world, so you’ll see detailed maps and accurate train, metro and bus timetables. If you are in one of those select cities, you will be able to use the Watch to get walking directions to and from your stop.

We are also looking forward to being able to reply to emails directly from the Watch and exploring the extra commands available through Siri.

For more information on what’s new in watchOS 2, MacRumors has a very good summary.

And what about accessibility?

Due to a number of factors, we have not been able to thoroughly test the beta of watchOS 2 before its public release. However, we are aware of at least one change in this release which will please a lot of people - turning off Speak On Wrist Raise in the VoiceOver Settings no longer also turns off Wake On Wrist Raise. Previously, if you wanted to have access to Siri by simply raising your wrist and saying “Hey Siri” you also had to have Speak On Wrist Raise enabled, which generally means putting up with VoiceOver announcing the time whenever you move your arm. We are sure that this change on its own will be enough to make a lot of us happy.

As for other accessibility-related changes, fixes and possible new bugs, please let us know in the comments of any that you find in this release.

How to update to watchOS 2

WatchOS 2 can be downloaded in the Apple Watch iPhone app under Settings> General> Software Update. In order for the update to install, the Apple Watch must be placed on the charger, should have at least 50% battery level and be within range of the iPhone it is paired to. Based on our experience with the beta cycle, we also believe that it is necessary for your iPhone to be running iOS 9 in order to update to watchOS 2.

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 David on Monday, September 21, 2015

IOS 9 being a prerequisite is very disappointing, as I was looking forward to the Apple Watch update. Ironic that getting independence from the phone is dependent on updating the phone. Looks like I'll have to be patient and wait for the fixes to IOS 9 before upgrading my watch as well.

Submitted by David Woodbridge on Tuesday, September 22, 2015

When you've set an larm within the Alarm app, the toggle button for the state of the alarm whether if its on or off is not voiced by VoiceOver: VoiceOver reports "switch button" not "switch button on" or "switch button off".

In Settings/General, the icon between Orientation and NightStand Mode is labelled: "Wait for 70 seconds" which contains the controls for Wake on Wrist Raise etc.

Submitted by Louise on Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Not necessarily an accessibility bug, but my watch isn't showing my calendar properly.
I deleted an event this morning on my phone, but it still shows as my next event on my clock face.

Submitted by Seanoevil on Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Hi All,

In reply to the inestimable David.
It is a pain that the Alarms App doesn't announce whether each specific alarm is on. As a work around, navigate to the alarm and single finger swipe up (or down ) until you hear "toggleAlarm. Double Tapping will activate/deactivate the alarm and you will get the Voice Announcement "On" or "Off" as the case may be. Tiresome if you have multiple Alarms to manage, but may avoid unnecessary awakenings.
To Louise, I don't use a Calendar Complication, but I have been able to edit Appointments on my Mac, have it Sync to my iPhone 5 and flow through correctly to the App on my Apple Watch.

In general, I find that both Apps and VO are snappier and I am having better success activating Force Touch. A worthwhile upgrade for me...



Submitted by Elena Brescacin on Tuesday, September 22, 2015

I just updated my Apple watch sport, to Watch OS2 Yesterday evening.
There is a feature I was longing for: music to be played from the watch's speakers instead of iPhone's.
Well, I go to: music -> select source -> then there are 2 tabs: phone or applewatch, I do not hide it's not so easy to reach those controls via flicking back and forth through VoiceOver, but then, found the "applewatch" tab, it cannot be selected by double tap. I do not manage, at least. This is the very first big update of the watch, maybe some bugs are there; but I just wanted to share this experience as I have the feeling I'm doing something wrong!
Before opening a bug reporter to Apple, I'd just like to know if someone else has encountered this issue.

Submitted by Michael Hansen on Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

To be honest, I wasn't expecting much in watchOS 2. So, needless to say, I was happily surprised upon installing the update:

  • I've noticed in watchOS 2 that VoiceOver is noticeably more responsive. In particular, VoiceOver generally speaks concurrently with sound effect playback, whereas in watchOS 1.0.1 the sound effects would play...and then VoiceOver would speak after a second or so.

  • The Weather complication now appears to be much better about updating its info, so that the current conditions etc. are shown as soon as you wake the Watch. What I'm not 100% sure about is whether this is because of under-the-hood improvements to have the app update more in the background, or if this is because Wake on Wrist Raise is now compatible with VoiceOver, so the device is waking itself more (and thus updating the Weather complication) with the movement of my arm.

  • Reviewing Dictated Text is now possible when sending to a recipient not using iMessage. In watchOS 1.0.1, it was not possible to review text Siri had dictated if you were sending to a non-iMessage recipient. (When sending to a recipient using iMessage, there are two options--to send your message as audio or as text, so you could review what was dictated.) In watchOS 2, this has thankfully been you can now review any text Siri has dictated regardless of whether your message recipient is using iMessage or not.

  • I really like the new Nightstand Mode. While it obviously doesn't offer as much to a VoiceOver user as it would to a user with sight, I appreciate being able to use my Watch as an alarm clock...I do like Apple's choice for an alarm tone!

  • A bug where VoiceOver would lose focus when moving past certain elements in the Clock Face customization screen appears to have been fixed.

Submitted by Juan F. Haro on Wednesday, September 23, 2015

I was looking forward to accessing the Dark Sky complication on my clock face. I find it disappointing that all I get is "double tap to open Dark Sky." I am hoping that this is corrected soon. For the most part, VoiceOver support has existed in the iPhone app so I hope that they are able to bring that accessibility to the Apple Watch.

Submitted by rdfreak on Wednesday, September 23, 2015

I updated last night - took a couple of hours. I noticed that VO is a lot less laggy so they have have addressed this. There is still a way to go but there is a difference.
Haven't had a chance to play around with much else as yet but looking forward to the new features. :)

Submitted by Niki on Thursday, September 24, 2015

I'm trying to update. I've done everything that I need to do including connecting to WiFi, connecting the watch to the charger, and having my phone in range. I am also updated to iOS 9.01. When I go to check for software update on the watch, it tells me that it failed because I'm not connected to the internet when I am. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

Submitted by Seanoevil on Thursday, September 24, 2015

Hi All,

Does anyone have any insight into the Brightness and Text Size adjusters in the Apple Watch App?

On my Apple Devices, I usually adjust brightness settings to a low level - conserving battery while still allowing sighted friends to read the screen should they need.

After upgrading to Watch 2.0, I noticed that Brightness and Text Size were both set to Zero out of 100%. Yet I am told that the screen is bright and text size on the watch is visible.

So, what do these sliders do?

Appreciate your advice.

As well as alarm toggle switch not reading correctly, I can't edit existing alarms either. Double tapping on the "activate item" button just seems to toggle the alarm, or do nothing at all. I can't edit existing alarms.
Also, when using the friends button, I get inconsistent results when double tapping on a friend. Usually a different friend 's contact appears than what I double tapped. Are others finding this?
I'm also still not understanding how to do digital touches and taps. I end up in the drawing canvas sending nonsensical sketches which is me trying to back out of there. If somebody is good at this, please can you do another podcast or provide some instructions. Thanks so much.

Hi Lisette,
I've noticed that friends thing you described even in IOS 1.1 actually.

While I'm here, I tried to ask siri to send a message to a contact (not in my favourites). She did and had the message on screen but there wasn't an option to send the message, just a cancil button. Siri wouldn't let me send the message upon my asking her.

Haven't got my watch with me today but, when I do tonight, I'll try it again and explain exactly what happens.

Submitted by Seanoevil on Thursday, October 1, 2015

Hi All,

I have encountered, and reported, a bug with Reminders in the Notification Centre.
If a Reminder is triggered and not actioned from the alert, it becomes inaccessible in the Notification Centre. That is, it appears on the Notification list, but when opened it cannot be read or interacted with using VO. I am told that to a Sighted Person it works fine, all of the info and buttons are on the screen. The result for VO users, however, is that it is not possible to dismiss or mark the Reminder as Complete etc.

Strangely, if you catch the Reminder Alert immediately and interact with it as it triggers then it will work fine.

I think I have done a good job of making a simple problem complicated and difficult to understand, still I hope this of use to someone...


PS r dfreak: I use Siri to send messages frequently. It has changed in OS2.0 but works like this:
Me: " Message Thomas Blah, blah, blah..."
SIRI: "OK, I'll send this" and then, confusingly, neither reads what this is nor sends it.
However, if you swipe on, will be the SMS recipient's name and the message. Once I have checked it is correct, or correct enough I hold down the Digital Crown to reactivate SIRI and say "Send"
and it is done.
Note, don't let the screen time out or you will lose it.
The "Don't Send" Button remains but for some strange reason Apple have dropped the "Send" Button that was there in previous versions.
I don't think that I have ever Favorited a Contact on my iPhone, but all of my SMS contacts are on my Friends screen.

Submitted by rdfreak on Friday, October 2, 2015

Hi guys, not sure if anyone else has experienced this. I also don't know if it's a bug or an issue I'm having though I never tried to decline a call in IOS 1.1.
I got a call yesterday which I muted by putting my hand over watch then I tried to decline the call but double tap did nothing so had to just let the phone/watch ring out (as I don't ahve voicemail).