Review: Apple watchOS 4

The Apple Watch has only been out since 2015, but the OS that powers it is now on its fourth iteration. The changes are significant and help to make the Apple Watch more usable for most people. Here’s the things that jumped out at me:

  • Immediately switch to List View for your apps: One of the things that I always hated about the Apple Watch is the grid view for apps as I found that to be difficult to navigate. Thankfully, Apple has come up with List View which displays your apps in alphabetical order in a list that scrolls up and down. You can switch to the list view with a hard-press on your watch’s app screen, then select List View. This is a way easier way to navigate your apps. Especially if you have a lot of them.
  • The Dock mimics List View: Instead of scrolling from left to right, app previews are stacked vertically. just like list view which makes using the dock easier.
  • The Heart Rate app is more useful: Previous versions of watchOS simply gave you what your current heart rate is. watchOS 4 gives you way more data such as resting rate and walking average. It will also detect when your heart rate increases when you are not exercising as that may be a sign of a heart issue.
  • There’s now a flashlight: In a pinch if you need a flashlight, your Apple Watch can help you with that. If you swipe up to bring up Control Center, you’ll see the flashlight icon. You get a bright white setting, an alternating option and a bright red screen. It’s not the brightest, but in my testing it worked well enough in a dark room.
  • The Music app has been heavily reworked… Perhaps not for the better: One huge change is found in the Music app. You can now only browse music that is on the Apple Watch itself and not the iPhone. Though you can still control an iPhone that is playing music using the Apple Watch. Other changes to the Music app in watchOS 4 include the ability to automatically add songs that are in a listener’s “heavy rotation.” Users can also manually select multiple playlists to sync to the watch, though it is limited to 2 gigabytes of storage. Now, there are going to be some who are not going to be happy about this. I personally am mixed and I will have to use this for a while to get a sense if this is good or bad for Apple Watch Users.
  • Fitness fans will like watchOS 4: For starters the Workout app can switch between multiple activity types in a single workout and offers quick start workouts and pairing with gym equipment. Apple has also added greatly enhanced swim tracking. Finally he activity app now has coaching. So if you’re close to closing an activity ring, you’ll get a suggestion as to how you can do it.
  • New watch faces: You get three new watch faces: Kaleidoscope, Toy Story, and Siri. The latter is potentially the most interesting. This watch face is made up of a series of cards stacked on top of each other, and scrolling the Digital Crown or swiping on the screen will navigate the list up or down. The info it provides is contextual. For example, if I was near a Starbucks, that would be displayed and I would have ready access to my Starbucks card. This is similar to the iPhone would do. But the iPhone will do this for built in and third party apps. watchOS only does this for built in apps. That limits how useful it could be. If Apple improves that, this could be a key feature. Also, with this watch face you get quick access to Siri, but pressing and holding the digital crown is just as quick for me. Thus I am not sure how useful this watch face is.
  • The Phone app has a keypad: If you really want to live the Dick Tracy life, you’ll be happy to know that watchOS 4 has a keypad. This is likely a nod to the Series 3 Apple Watch with LTE, but it’s still useful for other Apple Watch users….. If you want to use your Apple Watch as a phone.
  • The Camera app has more features: Beyond simply mirroring what the camera on your iPhone sees, the Camera app has some new features. You can now Force Touch the screen to flip between the front and rear cameras on your iPhone, activate or deactivate the flash, enable or disable HDR mode, and enable or disable Live Photos. You can also switch modes (say from photos to video) on your iPhone and have that reflected on the Camera app.
  • Performance improvements exist: Apple claimed that they got a 70% speed boost from watchOS 4. I can’t say if that’s true or not. But I can say that my Series 2 Apple Watch does perform better. There were times with watchOS 3 when it felt sluggish. I am unable to find any such behavior now. That alone made the 2.5 hours that it took to install watchOS 4 worth it.

Here’s the bottom line. There’s more than enough here to make watchOS 4 a worthwhile jump. Besides the performance improvements, the changes to the apps are all largely positive. Though the jury is still out in terms of the music app. Be that as it may, Apple Watch owners should have no fear in terms of upgrading to watchOS 4.

UPDATE: I got my facts about performance slightly wrong. I crossed out the incorrect parts.

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One Response to “Review: Apple watchOS 4”

  1. […] Watch. So while there are speed gains to be had with the Series 3,  upgrading your Series 2 to watchOS 4 may gain you enough of a speed boost to make it worthwhile to hang on to what you have. At least […]

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