watchOS 3 touches down for the Apple Watch; here’s how to upgrade

Apple has rolled out watchOS 3, which promises “significantly” improved performance with the ability to launch favorite apps instantly, enhanced navigation like the new Dock and all-new fitness and health capabilities for Apple Watch. Here’s how to upgrade: 

The iPhone paired to your Apple smartwatch must be running iOS 10. If it is, open the Apple Watch app, then choose General, then Software Update. Your Apple Watch battery must be at least 50% charged, and the smartwatch should be plugged into an external power source.

Kevin Lynch, Apple’s vice president of technology, says the top focus of the operating system update is performance. Launch times should be “instantaneous” as watch OS 3 lets you keep your favorite apps in memory, does background updates, and refreshes data before you bring them up, he adds.

This software update introduces the Breathe app, designed to encourage users to take a moment in their day to do deep breathing exercises for relaxation and stress reduction. The Activity app now includes the ability to share, compare and compete as well as enabling wheelchair users to close their Activity rings.

It’s easier and faster than ever to perform common tasks with watchOS 3, including replying to a message, starting a Workout or skipping a song, says Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. By pressing the side button, users can access the new Dock with their recent and favorite apps. 

Right from the Dock or the watch face, users can launch their favorite native and third-party apps instantly and have the latest information in the app already updated and ready for viewing. Similar to iOS, users can swipe up from the watch face for the new and improved Control Center, continue to swipe down for Notification Center and swipe left or right to switch out a watch face.

Motivation through social engagement is an important factor in changing fitness and health behavior, and now with watchOS 3, it’s possible to share, compare and compete with friends, family or even a personal trainer, says Williams. Users receive notifications about their friends’ progress, including completed Activity rings, finished workouts and earned achievements. 

Activity sharing is now directly connected to the Messages app, so users can communicate, motivate and celebrate with friends and family with new Smart Replies specially customized for Activity and Workouts. In watchOS 3, the Activity app experience is now optimized for wheelchair users. Wheelchair pushes contribute to all-day calorie goals, the “time to stand” reminder is now “time to roll” and there are dedicated wheelchair-specific workouts.

Receiving and quickly replying to messages is more powerful and expressive in watchOS 3 with stickers, handwriting, full-screen effects and invisible ink, which reveals the message only after a friend swipes over it, says Williams. Smart Replies are even faster as they are now available right in the message notification. When a more custom reply is needed, the new scribble feature allows users to write words on the display and Apple Watch will convert the handwriting to text.

SOS in watchOS 3 enables people in critical situations around the world to initiate a call with emergency services through their iPhone or while on Wi-Fi, and notify their emergency contact by simply pressing and holding the side button.

The Apple Watch gets even more personal with new watch faces in watchOS 3, including Minnie Mouse, Activity and the simple and Numerals. Even more apps can launch straight from the watch face including Workout, Music or Messages. Users can also now add complications to the Photo, Motion or Timelapse watch faces. It’s easier to customize watch faces and discover third-party apps with the new Faces Gallery in the Watch app on iPhone.