SAN FRANCISCO — Apple today took the wraps off a new version of the Apple Watch operating system, as well as a set of new development tools that will allow developers to make apps that run natively on the Watch, and enable them to use more of the device’s bells and whistles.
The Apple Watch began arriving in consumers’ hands April 24, and the loudest criticisms of the device so far have been that apps run too slowly and do too little.
The new tools, which many observers had anticipated, will let developers create apps that live and run on the processor in the Watch, instead of depending on the phone (and the unpredictable Bluetooth connection to it).
The Watch will now be able to communicate directly with a Wi-Fi network, instead of having to rely on the phone’s Wi-fi.
Developers can now develop apps that can use the microphone and the speaker, and play video on the Watch face. For instance, you can now watch Vine videos on the Watch face.
The Watch can now support a HomeKit app that changes the temperature in the house by turning the digital crown.
As with many products before it, Apple had restricted developers’ access to certain Watch features like the Watch’s digital crown, the microphone, and the speaker. The new dev tools will unlock access to these capabilities immediately.
Apple will give developers a software development kit containing the new tools, as well as new code that will let them build apps that exploit more Watch features.
The OS also adds a number of new basic features.
Siri can start workouts when it hears a voice command. A number of new exercise achievement badges have been added.
The mapping function can now map all routes, including public transportation routes.
Finally, a Time Travel function allows you to spin the time forward using the digital crown, and stats like battery life and weather will update with it.