With watchOS 8, Apple isn’t setting out to radically change the experience of using an Apple Watch, but the new capabilities the release will give developers will make it feel more dynamic and useful throughout the day.
The biggest change in this regard is how applications will be able to work in the “Wrist Down” position. In watchOS 7, apps were dimmed and blurred out when the Watch was inactive, with the time overlaid in the upper-right corner:
With watchOS 8, the blurring will be replaced with a new dimmer state, that is ready to become inactive with just a single tap:
watchOS tells the application the state of the Watch, and the app should be able to quickly dim and hide personal data that shouldn’t be visible to others when the user’s wrist is down.
In this dimmed state, a watchOS app can still receive data from the system and update their UI. Workout apps or audio apps can update once per second when there is an active session going on to keep the user informed with a mere glance. Out of session, this time between updates is once per minute to preserve battery life.
In watchOS 8, Apple is also updating how apps are sent updated information from HealthKit. Critical data — such as fall events, low blood oxygen saturation and heart rate events — is sent immediately. Other data types are delivered hourly, if not longer.
If you use a Bluetooth heart rate monitor or other equipment and pair them directly with the Apple Watch, watchOS 8 has some features for you, too. Bluetooth device will be able to connect when their corresponding application is in the background, as long the app is being used as a Complication. From there, data from the device (such as heart rate) can be kept up to date directly, up to four times an hour.
Lastly, text entry is being sped up this year as well, as the Watch will remember if the user prefers Scribble or Dictation, on a per-app basis.
The Apple Watch has always been about small interactions, and with watchOS 8, Apple has continued to work in making those faster and smoother than before. Starting later this year, the Watch will be more up to date all the time, even when your wrist is down, while Health data and even text entry will be faster as well. These small interactions are often just seconds long, but time matters when it comes to the Watch.
[Stephen Hackett is the author of 512 Pixels and co-founder of Relay FM.]
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