Apple today released watchOS 2, a new version of its smartwatch platform, which adds plenty of power to the wearable operating system and Apple-branded watches.
Apple was originally prepared to make watchOS 2 available on Sept. 16. A bug put the kibosh on those plans. Apple was forced to delay watchOS 2's release due to an issue that couldn't be resolved before the announced launch. It appears Apple was able to resolve the issue in a relatively short timeframe, as it began pushing the revised OS to smartwatches today, only five days behind schedule.
WatchOS 2 offers plenty of features for end users to get excited about, but developers should be taking a long, hard look at the new OS, too.
To start, watchOS 2 supports native apps, or apps that can run on the watch itself and not a nearby iPhone. This should be a boost to app performance across the board, though the impact to battery life on Apple's wearable is still unknown. Native apps will give Apple Watch owners more freedom, as they'll be able to leave the house without their smartphone and still retain some level of usability.
This is due largely in part to an expanded set of APIs available to developers. Developers are able to tap into a much broader set of the Watch's hardware, including the Digital Crown, accelerometer, gyroscope, and other sensors. Access to more sensors means developers can have a lot more fun.
Apple added a feature to the watch called Time Travel. No, it doesn't involve a DeLorean and a crazy-haired scientist. Time Travel lets Watch owners scroll forward and backward through their calendars, in effect jumping forward and backward in time. (Yeah, OK, maybe Apple's marketing department reached a bit on this one.) Then there's Nightstand Mode. This transforms the smartwatch into a beside alarm clock. When charging in its cradle, the Watch can show the time and help users manage alarms.
Other tools added in the new platform let people store their credit cards for Apple Pay; check out public transit directions within Apple Maps; see workout stats generated by third-party apps; use Siri to record workouts; and prevent unauthorized users from activating stolen watches thanks to the new Activation Lock.
The final form of watchOS 2 has been available to developers for a few weeks now. Today's push is for end users. That means your first-gen Apple Watch app probably needs an upgrade -- if you haven't revisited your code already.