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Watch This

I am really surprised that I have taken to the Apple Watch so completely. It is not that I use it as a fitness device although I DO have goals…that I seldom meet. But, I wear it every day even though it was over 50 years since I regularly wore a watch.

Q: So, what do I use it for?

A: ApplePay, sports scores, texts, answering my iPhone Dick Tracy-style, weather and a lot of other stuff like checking the time. :)

I was very interested in the latest version of watchOS that was introduced by Apple at WWDC; watchOS 3 has some pretty dramatic changes in store for your Apple Watch. The first, and most noticeable for me, is that the little scribbles that you can send to your friends when you press the side button is gone. Okay, I used that like 4 times to send little drawings to Grace or my hearbeat but pretty useless for that important button. Now, pressing that button will give you a Dock which you can configure with your favorite apps, which I find a lot more convenient than trying to get my big fat finger on that tiny little icon.

Something you will get used to pretty quickly, but is a huge improvement, is that it is easier and faster to perform common tasks including replying to a message, starting a workout, or skipping a track. Apps launch much faster. Swipe up from the bottom of the watch face to access your important settings in Control Center.

Apple added new watch faces, too, including Minnie Mouse (I don’t get the fascination with Mickey and Minnie), Activity, or Numerals, and you can customize them with more complications like Music and Workout. Switch faces with just a swipe, so you can have the Activity face for the gym and the Modular face for work. And easily configure your faces in the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. Configuring your watch faces on your iPhone is much easier than on the tiny watch face.

There are some improvements to the Activity app including some for the more competitive folks. You can share and compete with activity sharing. Send and receive real-time progress updates when friends finish workouts or earn achievements, and reply with encouragement or smack talk. Activity rings are optimized for wheelchair users, there are two wheelchair-specific workouts, and there’s a new Time to Roll notification.

There was a lot of time spent on the new Breathe app and while I like it and have tried it out a few times it is not as groundbreaking as Apple made it out to be. It must have been someone’s pet idea. The new Breathe app encourages you to take moments in your day to do short, deep-breathing sessions. The beautiful, calming visualization and haptic cues guide you through deep, full breaths in sessions lasting from one to five minutes. And when you’re done, you’ll receive a helpful heart-rate summary. I ended up turning of Breathe notifications after a few sessions.

You know those squiggly drawings we talked about that were eliminated? Well, they were actually just moved where they belong: into Messages. Set off fireworks or stick a sticker. Share a secret with invisible ink or reply in your own handwriting. You can even draw letters on the display and Apple Watch turns it into text. All your options including larger emoji, sketches, taps, and your heartbeat are in the same place, so you can send and respond to messages faster than ever.

The new SOS feature is a handy safety item to complement your Medical ID that we talked about a couple weeks ago. Quickly and easily call for help if you’re in a critical situation. Press and hold the side button and your Apple Watch will automatically initiate a call with 911 or other emergency services numbers in other countries. SOS can also send a message to the people you’ve chosen as your emergency contacts, so your family and friends are alerted as quickly as possible.

The Timer app which I use all the time is revamped and makes it easier to start timing, but best of all is Auto Unlock. While it is not yet implemented in the current betas, Auto Unlock will unlock your Mac when you are wearing your watch. Very, very handy!

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