Apple Watch: third time’s the charm

Apple’s third attempt at a watchOS is currently in developer beta, so the usual disclaimers apply: stuff might change, features might be added or removed, nothing is finalized, blah blah blah.

For context, I’ve been a generally happy Watch owner since I got mine last summer. I was disappointed with the app performance problems, but I have worn mine daily mostly for the health tracking and notifications about a handful of must-know things.

That said, if you want my impression of watchOS 3 after testing it for about two weeks, picture me in the GIF below, dancing and spinning and singing on top of a mountain.

Sound of Music mountain singing GIF

A big help are the new tools in the iPhone app which make customization of Watch faces and complications much faster. But the real star, for me, is the huge performance and speed increases for third-party apps, including the new quick-switching Dock that takes the place of the previous friends wheel. As far as I know, developers cannot yet publicly release updates for watchOS 3 (whereas a number of iPhone and iPad apps have already updated in the App Store), but even current apps start up and simply run better. In a word, they’re usable now.

For example: one of my goals with getting a Watch in the first place, besides the health stuff, was untethering myself from my iPhone. More often, I’d like to keep it in my bag while out and about, or on a table or charger while at home. But I’d still like quick access to a handful of tasks without needing my phone—checking into places with Swarm, saving quick thoughts and ideas in Day One and Drafts, responding with a 👍🏻 to messages—so I can be more present with who and where I am.

With previous watchOS iteration, most of the wrist-able tasks I care about were prohibitively slow or tedious to the point where, like many, I just gave up on them. In watchOS 3, even though my apps haven’t been updated to take advantage of new developer goodies, I’m happy to do most of these tasks and leave my phone alone.

For a final detail, I haven’t noticed much change in battery life. I have always been able to get through a day with 30-50 percent left. That hasn’t seems to change with the beta, even though I’m using apps more often.

I feel like watchOS 3 will allow the Apple Watch to reach the original potential for which we were all excited. I’m sure the next hardware iteration will offer faster performance and longer battery life (having enough juice for sleep monitoring is interesting to me), but existing owners are in for a treat when watchOS 3 arrives, and that is exciting all by itself.