From time-lapse photography to easier emailing: Apple Watch's software upgrade makes device even more fun

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 September, 2015, 11:07am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 September, 2015, 2:22pm

The first major upgrade for Apple’s smartwatch operating system, called watchOS 2, was finally made available for download on Monday, following a delay caused by a bug found during tests last week.

That release has come just in time as the Apple Watch begins to receive wider distribution in Hong Kong beyond the company’s four branded stores in the city and its online shop.

Hutchison Telecommunications’ mobile services arm, 3 Hong Kong, started on Tuesday to sell the Apple Watch at designated 3Shops in Central, Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui, Jordan and Mong Kok districts.

READ MORE: Users of the Apple Watch in China swell to more than 1 million in August

“We believe the Apple Watch will be one of the hottest gifts in town,” a 3 Hong Kong spokesman said on Monday.

The South China Morning Post first reviewed the Apple Watch in April, weeks before the initial sale of the device in the city and other selected markets around the world.

This reporter once again took a demo unit for a spin over a 48-hour period. 

The stainless steel Apple Watch model, designed with a 42mm case, had watchOS 2 already installed. This reporter’s iPhone was paired via Bluetooth with the watch.

READ MORE: Cracks in the wall: China's 'Great Firewall' may share some blame for breach at Apple's App Store

Apple has touted its smartwatch as the most customisable timepiece in the market, and the software upgrade proved that in spades.

Pressing the Apple Watch display opens options for different watch faces. The display used the so-called Force Touch feature to provide a range of contextually specific controls.

Customising Apple’s smartwatch face with “complications” — the term for additional functions in mechanical watches beyond the display of hours and minutes — is given further embellishment with three new options: Time-Lapse, Photo and Photo Album. 

With Time-Lapse, a user can select from videos shot over 24 hours in selected locations. These include Hong Kong, Shanghai, London, Paris, New York and Mack Lake, located in the US state of Michigan.

The time-lapse video this reporter selected was taken from a spot at The Peak in Hong Kong Island, which offers a grand view of high-rise buildings, Victoria Harbour and the Kowloon Peninsula.

READ MORE: Apple Watch apps take some of the pain out of travelling

On each wrist raise, the video will start with the sun at the same point in the sky as the user’s current location. 

Similar to what can be put on the display of smartphones and tablets, an Apple Watch user can choose a single photo from the Photos app of their iPhone as their personalised watch face. Again, this picture shows up every time the user’s wrist is raised.

Users can also put on display different images from the favourites album on their iPhone. Each time this reporter raised his wrist, a different image from the designated album appeared on the watch face. 

Apple has also added more colours to add flourish for the watch face. Each colour can be set up by scrolling up or down with the so-called Digital Crown, a revolutionary navigation and input device as the click wheel was to the original iPod.

New colour options for watch faces include antique white, vintage rose, stone, midnight blue, turquoise and lavender. 

Complications provide bits of data that users care about most, right on the watch face — such as the calendar, the weather, upcoming events on schedule and the watch battery life.

With watchOS 2, complications can now also be taken from third-party apps available on the App Store. Some of these apps available in Hong Kong include those from eBay, Sina, Yahoo, Airbnb, WeChat, Hotel Tonight, Twitter, the NBA and Electronic Arts.

Third-party developers can take advantage of Apple Watch hardware features, including the Digital Crown navigation tool, the Taptic Engine, heart rate sensor, accelerometer and microphone through new watchOS 2 software application programming interfaces that they can build their apps on.

New communication enhancements added to the Apple Watch by its upgraded operating system include the ability to reply to Apple’s Mail messages, add multiple friend groups, get assistance via Siri voice command and make FaceTime audio calls. 

This reporter found receiving and replying to Mail directly on Apple Watch a joy through the use of emoji and relevant, preset replies like “OK” for responding. A user can reply by tapping reply at the bottom of the message. That approach is simple, direct and allows users to keep their iPhones tucked away in their pocket or bag.

Others might want to dictate a response, which the Apple Watch can also accommodate.

The first iteration of Apple’s smartwatch operating system could be set up with up to 12 contacts. With watchOS 2, the device can now hold multiple groups of 12 contacts each. This reporter counted more than dozen using Apple Watch among the contacts on his iPhone.

The Digital Touch feature lets users draw and send sketches in multiple colours to other Apple Watch owners, which younger users of the device might find to be a fun activity.

Siri gets more versatile with watchOS 2 as it can be commanded to reply to Mail and even initiate a FaceTime audio call over known Wi-fi networks. 

This reporter tried FaceTime over the home Wi-fi with a friend who has owned an Apple Watch for months. It was a lively experience that would remind anyone of just how far advanced communications has progressed early in this century.

But the most important feature wanted by this reporter has finally been provided by watchOS 2. It has added the Activation Lock, a security feature that requires a user to enter a correct Apple ID and password before the device can be unpaired or paired with another iPhone.

In case the watch is lost or stolen, this feature prevents another person from activating the device.