7 Ways the Apple Watch Is Getting More Useful

The Apple Watch is getting a much-needed update, one that promises to jumpstart the process of turning its array of apps — which are fun, but less useful than would be ideal — into more powerful, useful tools. At its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple demonstrated watchOS 2, the first major software update for the Apple Watch.

As Apple’s press release notes, watchOS 2 enables developers to build apps that run natively on the Apple Watch; tap into the Digital Crown, Taptic Engine, and heart rate sensor; and use new software APIs to build more capable apps. The update will be available to Apple Watch owners in the fall, and will also bring new watch faces, watch face complications that incorporate third-party information, and new capabilities for Mail, Friends, and Digital Touch.

watchOS 2 will be available in the fall as an update for the Apple Watch, and the iOS 9 SDK beta — which includes WatchKit for watchOS 2 — is already available to developers. Here are a few of the ways that the update is changing Apple Watch for the better.

1. Developers can build more powerful apps. . .

Developers have already created thousands of apps for Apple Watch, but watchOS 2 gives app makers access to the Digital Crown, Taptic Engine, heart rate sensor, accelerometer, and microphone. New software APIs enable them to use audio and video playback and animation. And most importantly, the apps that they build for Apple Watch can now run natively on the watch itself, instead of on the companion iPhone. That opens the door to robust third-party apps that can offer a huge array of new experiences to Apple Watch users. It could also help the Apple Watch find its killer app — the thus-far elusive app so useful and innovative that it convinces people they just have to own the wearable.

2. . . . and contribute to smarter watch faces

The ClockKit framework enables developers to represent their apps’ data as complications on the watch face. Complications put small but useful pieces of information on the watch screen that users see the most, and app users will be able to choose what third-party app information they’d like to see on the watch face.

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