Review: Apple watchOS 5

Apple dominates the wearables market with the Apple Watch. A big reason for that is this dominance is the operating system that runs the Apple Watch which is watchOS. In the fifth iteration of this operating system, it’s been refined to not only provide a much better user experience. That starts with Siri. You can now invoke Siri by raising the Apple Watch and speaking to it without saying “hey Siri”. It takes some practise to get it right, but once you figure it out it is a handy feature. Though I have to admit that it wasn’t the biggest deal in the world to say “hey Siri” to get her to do something. But at least you have a choice as to how to invoke Siri for the first time.

If you run third party audio apps on your Apple Watch, they can run in the background and they also have access to the digital crown to allow you to control the volume. That’s neat and will be welcomed by users. Another welcome addition is a new podcasts app that supports automatic syncing of podcasts. That will likely be a feature that is welcomed by those with the LTE version of the Apple Watch as that has twice the memory as the WiFi only version.

watchOS 5 also builds on the solid fitness foundation that watchOS has with activity competitions where you can challenge your friends and win awards, expanded Workout types such as hiking and yoga, automatic workout detection which means that if the Watch thinks your running it will offer to start a workout, and advanced running statistics such as target pace. Though as my wife pointed out, you can’t configure multiple paces among other things. Which means you still have to find an Apple Watch app with those capabilities. But I’m pretty sure that these additions will motivate people to be more active. But one thing that I do have to say is that if I start a long walk, the Watch can be a bit too eager to offer to start a workout when all I am doing is walking to the local corner store down the block.

One feature that I wasn’t able to test was the new Walkie Talkie feature. This feature will allow you to send short audio messages to someone else. As long as you both have an Apple Watch running watchOS 5 and you’ve both added each other to Walkie Talkie. It sounds like a gimmick. But I think that Apple might be on to something here as I can see that this might be a niche use case for some users of the Apple Watch. Families for example as this method of communication may be less obtrusive than a phone call. Especially for a quick message such as “I’m on my way” or “I just got here.”

One big addition that most people will care about is that watchOS 5 now has the ability to allow you to connect to any WiFi access point which will give you a reason to not tote your iPhone around the office for example. Especially for those who have the WiFi version of the Apple Watch. That is as long as it is not a 5GHz Wi-Fi network, or it is a captive network or some sort. But assuming that you fit this use case, it works. Mostly. By that I mean that if you have a simple WiFi network with password authentication, it will work just fine based on my testing. But if you try to connect to a WiFi network that is more sophisticated such as an 802.1x network that requires a username and password and requires a certificate to be downloaded to the Apple Watch, your mileage may vary. In my tests of that scenario, it worked maybe 25 percent of the time. The rest of the time it failed to connect and claimed that my password was wrong which. But it wasn’t. That implies that Apple may have some work to do on this front. Another thing to note is that Apple requires you to use the scribble feature to enter the password. That can be frustrating if you have never done that before. But once you get the hang of scribble, it’s really not a big deal.

Another big addition is that the Mail app finally displays HTML content. That way you don’t have to fish out your phone to read an email. Which in turn enhances the fact that you can leave your phone behind and just rely on the Apple Watch.

Gripes? Well, I have noted that the user interface is kind of buggy. For example there is the odd occasion where I try to respond to a text message in Messages and when I use a canned response, Messages disappears and I simply hear the sound that indicates that I have sent the message. But because I am not 100% sure that I have used the right canned response, I have to go back into messages to check to make sure. But that is minor in the grand scheme of things as this is a solid iteration of Apple’s wearable OS. If you have an Apple Watch, you should download this and install this ASAP as it is a major step forward for Apple Watch owners.



One Response to “Review: Apple watchOS 5”

  1. […] 3 could occasionally bog down. Nothing like that exists here. watchOS 5 which you can read about here is preinstalled and really leverages this platform. Along for the ride is the ability to detect […]

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