WatchOS 3: Powering The Ultimate Smartwatch Experience


21st January 2020


5 min


Patrick Richardson

Watches are no longer timekeeping devices. They have transformed into all-powerful wearables that do so much more than simply displaying the time‚ such as sending and receiving notifications‚ tracking health parameters like heartbeat and steps walked‚ and sharing calls and messages. Powering all these experiences is the versatile watchOS 3.

Apple announced watchOS 3 for Apple Watch during its Keynote at WWDC 2016. This third version of the operating system has new and updated features‚ set to make these wearables more interactive and engaging‚ creating unique experiences for the users.

So without further ado‚ let’s take a look at some of the incoming changes for watchOS 3:

Instant launching of apps 

This is perhaps the most important feature of watchOS 3. In the previous OS‚ if you tried to launch an app it would take some time to activate. Now‚ apps launch instantly‚ an impressive 7 times faster than in watchOS 2. 

It keeps favourite apps in memory‚ performs background updates‚ and keeps it ready for an Instant Launch. The best part? It works with both built-in apps as well as third party ones.

Access to your favourite apps

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It’s now much easier to access our favourite apps. We can press the side button below the crown to launch the Dock‚ where we can quickly scroll through our memorized apps and choose which to launch.

New Control Centre

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Control Centre is a key design feature being added to the Apple watch‚ which makes it more familiar and easier to control. If we swipe from below‚ we gain access to a Control Centre similar to that in iOS. It’s a great enhancement to the watch navigation and the way we use the watch. 


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WatchOS 3 brings with it a powerful way to reply to messages‚ without having to opt for the reply button. Just scroll down to see smart message reply options; when there is nothing suitable to choose from‚ you can take advantage of Scribble.

Scribble is an amazing feature that allows you to write messages with your finger. By writing one letter on top of another‚ you can write clear messages with comfort and ease.

Watch faces

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Watchface is symbolic for quick looks that reflect the style and character of the device. This year‚ Minnie is going to be available along with Mickey as one of the new watchfaces‚ and it’s coming in different colours to match the bands. There are a lot more faces to choose from‚ like activity rings and numerals. Moreover‚ you can now start a workout right from the watch face.

SoS emergency feature 

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In the event of an emergency‚ SoS is a fantastic feature of watchOS 3. We can activate it by pressing and holding the side button for three seconds‚ to start a call to the emergency services either from the watch through Wi-Fi or the iPhone. 

Immediately after calling the emergency services‚ the watch notifies selected emergency contacts and sends a message with location map and the medical ID‚ containing blood group‚ allergies and the specific medical history of the user automatically replaces the watchface. This amazing service is available not just in the US but internationally too. 

Activity sharing 

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Fitness and health apps are favourites that are used widely. No wonder activity rings are the centre stage of workouts and activity tracking. As well as viewing our own activity levels‚ we can now track and compete with friends and family members‚ sparking a healthy competition amongst networks.

The activity app displays the activity rings of competitors as well. One can comfortably message friends and relatives from the activity app to encourage them or start a new challenge.

Wheelchair users

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The most interesting feature of watchOS 3 is the optimisation for wheelchair users‚ who need to keep their hands free on the move. Being able to interact with their watches instead of their phones for notifications and messages is hugely beneficial. 

With the latest operating system‚ activity rings are optimised for wheelchair users’ hand movements on their wheels‚ with a new set of algorithms to improve user experience further. 


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In response to the growing popularity of meditation and mindfulness‚ watchOS 3 facilitates deep breathing exercises through its Breathe App. This brand new app guides you through simple deep breathing exercises‚ helping you to quiet your mind‚ relax your body and better deal with everyday stress‚ as recommended by yoga practitioners. 

The app can be launched from watchface or Dock‚ with the option to set reminders for Breathe sessions throughout the day. Once opened‚ you can set the session time from 1 to 5 minutes by turning the digital crown. You can then either enjoy the visuals while exercising‚ or close your eyes and feel the gentle taps from haptic feedback. 

When the session is complete‚ you are given a summary that includes your heart rate‚ making it a simple but effective tool for users concerned about looking after their health and wellbeing.

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The arrival of watchOS 3 offers a fantastic opportunity for developers to take advantage of the new features and APIs being added to the ecosystem. Combined with other developments‚ such as SpriteKit‚ new health activity features‚ and support for native use of Apple Pay on the watch‚ it’s time to look forward to amazing new apps from the mobile app developer community.