November 2016 Issue  Volume 17  Number 11

Product Reviews and Guides

What's New in watchOS 3 for the Apple Watch

On September 13, 2016, Apple released watchOS 3, the new operating system for the Apple Watch. This update offers many new features, such as increased speed and an easier interface when replying to messages. As promised at Apple's World Wide Developers Conference, it has a new feature that lets a person who is blind check the time without use of VoiceOver.

Along with a new operating system, Apple introduced Watch Series 2. The new watches are water resistant and have GPS and a faster processor. You can find out more about the watches at an Apple Store, the Apple Store iOS app, or online.

This article is an overview of the new features of watchOS 3. Both the original Apple Watches and the new Series 2 watches can use this new operating system. For this review, I used an original Apple Sport watch.

No More Glances

Glances, which were certain apps which could be accessed from the watch face, A=Glances are gone with watchOS 3. Instead, there is a Control Center. From the clock face, flick up with two fingers. You can also flick down with one finger and you will eventually get to the Control Center. The first setting will indicate whether your watch is connected to your iPhone. Other settings include Do Not Disturb and the very useful Ping iPhone. Flick right to hear all available settings.

The Dock

The Watch now has a Dock that can accommodate up to 10 apps. Reach the Dock by pressing the rectangular button (it used to be called the Friends button) below the Digital Crown.

By default, Apple has already placed some standard apps on the Dock but they can be removed easily by flicking up or down with one finger on the designated app. There are four options: Move Left, Move Right, Activate, and Remove. Move Left and Move Right refer to arranging the Dock. The Remove button will remove the app from the Dock, but not from your watch.

The Dock can also be controlled via the Dock setting in the Watch app on your iPhone. To do so, activate the Dock button within the app. When the new screen loads, there will be an Edit button in the upper right corner of the screen. The first set listed contains the apps that are currently on the Dock; the next set lists the apps that are not on your Dock. Make changes by first activating the edit button. Flicking with one finger on an app in the Dock will bring up options to remove or activate the app. An Insert button appears above every app that is not currently in the Dock. Below the app's name is a button to re-order where the app is located. Activate the Done button when finished.

Manipulating Apps

It is now easier to arrange or remove apps. On any app, flick up or down with one finger. There are two options: Arrange Apps and Activate. Select Arrange Apps. VoiceOver will say "Editing." At this point, double tapping on the app will bring up a delete dialogue. Flick right once to delete the app and flick right again to cancel the action. Default Apple apps such as Mail and Reminders cannot be deleted.

Once Arrange Apps has been chosen, flicking up or down will prompt VoiceOver to say "Move left" or "Move right." If either option is selected, VoiceOver will announce the app's new position. Any app can be moved.

Find My Watch

The ability to locate your iPhone via your Apple Watch is a very convenient feature. With watchOS 3 the reverse is also possible: your iPhone can be used to locate your Apple Watch. I've already had to use this new feature.

On your iPhone, open the Find My iPhone app and go to your devices. Locate your watch in the device list and select it. VoiceOver will announce how far away the watch is from your phone.

Activate the "Actions" button and select "Play Sound." The sound from your watch is the same as the iPhone's sound. The sound will keep playing until you turn it off with the "Dismiss" button on the iPhone. After using this feature, you will receive an email from Apple, indicating that a sound was played on the watch.

Heart Rate

Since Glances are gone, you can access Heart Rate as a complication or with the Heart Rate app. Once the app or complication is activated, flick right on the screen to hear your heart rate and how long ago it was checked. Take a new reading by double tapping on the screen. Then, flick left and VoiceOver will say "Measuring." A few seconds later, you will hear your new heart rate.


A new app in watchOS 3 is the Breathe app. It is designed to give you some calming minutes each day. The app can be set up through the Watch app on your iPhone. Once in the Watch app, activate the My Watch tab, where you'll find a button labeled "Breathe." Activating this button will open the Breathe app's settings.

The first control is for how often you want your watch to remind you to breathe.

Next is a toggle to get a weekly summary of your Breathe sessions from the previous week.

The third control is for setting how many breaths per minute you want to take. Options range from 4 to 10.

The fourth control, Haptics, sets how strong the vibrations on your watch should be during your breathing session. The options are "None," "Minimal," or "Prominent."

The final control is a toggle for whether the length of each Breathe session should default to the previous session's length or be set manually for each session.

Start a Breathe session by opening the Breathe app on your Watch. On the lower right corner of the screen is a "Start" button. When you feel vibrations on your wrist, breathe in. Breathe out when vibrations stop. VoiceOver will guide you through the process at the beginning of each session. The watch will play a tone when the session is over. At the top of the screen will be a summary for the day and your heart rate for the last session. Near the bottom will be a button labeled "Breathe Again." Activate it if you immediately want to do another session.

Taptic Time

This app is specifically geared for people who are blind. Taptic Time transmits the time via vibrations rather than VoiceOver announcement. The app is similar to TimeBuzz, but is activated with just a double tap on the lock screen. Taptic Time does not have as many options for vibration patterns as TimeBuzz, but it is easier to activate. There is no need to turn off VoiceOver when using Taptic Time.

Begin the setup process by going to the "My Watch" app on your iPhone. Taptic Time options are in the VoiceOver section. Go to General > Accessibility > VoiceOver > Taptic Time. If the feature isn't on, activate it. The first option is whether to enable Taptic Time. Make sure the feature is enabled. When you double tap on the lock screen, you will feel hours and minutes. Doing a triple tap will let you feel just the minutes.

Once Taptic Time is activated, choose a Taptic Style. The Digits pattern will do short taps for 1 to 9 hours and a long tap for 10 hours. Therefore, 11:00 would be one long tap and one short tap. Long taps are done for every 10 minutes and short taps for 1 to 9 minutes. Therefore, 15 minutes would be one long tap and five short taps.

The Terse pattern will give a long tap for every five hours and short taps for the other hours. Therefore, 11:00 would be two long taps and a short tap. Every 15 minutes is a long tap. Therefore, 30 minutes would be two long taps. Minutes are given only every 15 minutes.

The final option is Morse code. With this option, each digit of the time is tapped out in Morse code.

Once an option is selected, flick right to the "Preview" button. You will be able to feel how each option tells the time on your phone rather than on your watch. Select the one you like best.

Auto Speak Complications

Complications are pieces of information you can add to the watch face. Examples include, battery level, activity, and temperature. You can now have some complications, such as Battery and Activity, speak when you wake up your watch. On the watch face, locate the complication you want to speak and flick up with one finger until you hear "Enable Auto Speak." Double-tap with one finger. VoiceOver will give confirmation that the feature is enabled. Every time you wake your watch along with the time, you will hear information from the selected complication. More than one complication can be enabled. Turn off the Auto Speak feature by locating the specific complication on the watch face and flick up until you hear "Disable Auto Speak." Double-tap and VoiceOver will confirm that the feature has been disabled for that complication.

Emergency SOS

This new feature lets you hold the side button (the same button that brings up the Dock) to call emergency services. When bringing up the Dock, just tap the button. To call Emergency Services, keep holding the button in. You can also add up to three Emergency Contacts that will be notified in case of emergency.

Set up Emergency SOS by going to the Watch tab on your iPhone. Go to General > Emergency SOS. The button is on by default. Double tap to get into the menu.

Once in the menu, there is a button labeled "Hold to Auto Call." Turn this button on and you will only need to hold the button to reach emergency services.

Next is an "Add to SOS Contact" button. When the button is activated, your Contacts list will be displayed. Select the person you want to add. Their name and cell phone number will now be displayed in the Emergency SOS contact list. If there is more than one number in the contact list, choose which number you want to use. If you contact emergency services, the people you have listed will get a message that you contacted emergency services along with your location when you made the call.

Streamlined Message Reply

The process for replying to a message has been streamlined. After listening to a message, keep flicking right until you find the response you want. The first flick to the right brings you to the dictation button. The next flick brings you to the Emoji button. Next are Digital Touch and Scribble. Following that is the list of the standard responses. Select the option you want to use.


It is well worth updating to watchOS 3. The addition of the Dock is very convenient. Apps are much easier to remove and arrange and it takes significantly less time for apps to open. The Taptic Time feature gives people who are blind another way to tell time without anyone else hearing it. Responding to messages is much faster. I'm very pleased with this new operating system.

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