Apple Watch's Low Hanging Fruit

Posted by Matt Birchler
β€” 3 min read

Apple is almost certainly going to announce watchOS 3 at next week's WWDC and the internet is abuzz with what may be announced. I've already made my pitch for how I would change the Apple Watch software, but I wanted to take a few minutes to hit on a couple pieces of low-hanging fruit Apple can address to eliminate some of the daily frustrations with the Apple Watch.

Apple should do a lot more than this, but this is a list of things that I'm considering essential additions. Let me know what other obvious features I'm missing.

Speed improvements

There is nothing Apple could do that would garner more good will from current Apple Watch owners than optimizing the hell out of the software to make the device run faster. I don't know if it means removing some animations, trimming down functionality, or some other wizardry, but this is essential. watchOS 2 made the Apple Watch a little faster, but watchOS 3 needs to make an even bigger leap forward.

Bring "Proactive" to the Watch

One of iOS 9's headline features was it's Proactive family of features. The idea is that your iOS device knows what apps you want to run at certain times/places, what news you are interested in, and who you want to talk to right now. In practice the feature has been a mixed bag, but the Apple Watch would benefit greatly from getting some of this.

For example if I walk into a Starbucks, my iPhone will bring up the Starbucks app on my lock screen so that I can launch it and pay for my drink. Nothing happens on my watch though. It would be very convenient if the Starbucks watch app launched automatically when I walked into the store as well, so when I raise my wrist the barcode is already there for the barista to scan. My watch should understand my situation better and know what I'm going to do before I do it.

Move Activity data to iCloud

I wrote about this as well, and I still think it's an essential thing for Apple to make available. It's incredibly frustrating that my Activity data is trapped locally in my iPhone. This means that if I can never do a factory reset on my phone or set up my next iPhone as a new phone without losing all of my data.

I understand some people think this information is sensitive enough that it can't reside anywhere besides my phone, but I think that's way too paranoid and Apple should give us the option to save our data online as well.

Always on watch faces

Android Wear does this already and the world hasn't exploded, and watchOS should do it too. Battery concerns are definitely valid, but those of us with the 42mm models routinely end the day with 30-50% battery life left and would love the option to have the watch face show up all the time.

Give me the option to turn the feature off, and maybe even turn it off automatically when the watch gets down to 20-30% battery level to maximize the last bit of battery life, but this needs to be there.

A part of me really thinks this is going to be exclusive to the Apple Watch 2 coming later this year, but I really hope it will be a standard watchOS 3 feature and work on any Apple Watch out there.

Fix the side button

The side button on the Apple Watch is a massively underused part of the device. Apple called this the "friends button" when they announced the Apple Watch since it gave you quick access to contact a list of your favorite people. As it turned out, basically no one uses their Apple Watch like that so the button mostly goes unused. I only use mine to trigger Apple Pay, personally.

I proposed it should change into an auxiliary button that performs certain actions based on what app is running on your iPhone at the time. For example, if I have Overcast running in the foreground (even if the screen is off), the aux button could either play/pause or skip ahead 30 seconds. Another example would be a remote shutter button for the camera. Sure, there's a camera app on the watch for that, but a physical button would be easier to press without looking at the screen.

Apple may do something different, but they need to do something different with that button because it's one of 2 buttons on the device and it literally never gets used by most people.