(Pocket-lint) - Apple has released WatchOS 2, a major update to its operating system that powers the Apple Watch.
The new OS, first announced in June but now available for all Apple Watch owners, brings a host of new features to the smartwatch and fixes a couple of issues owners have complained about since its initial release.
The smartwatch market continues to grow and change with a steady pace with new challengers appearing almost weekly at the moment. Whether that's Huawei, Motorola or Samsung, Apple's Watch needs to make sure it stays ahead of the pack, especially as iPhone users can now get Google's Android Wear on their phone giving them a very viable alternative beyond the Pebble or activity watches like the Activité Pop.
We've been using the new WatchOS 2 on a rose pink Apple Watch Sport to find out whether the changes are welcomed.
Apple WatchOS 2: Native apps
The biggest change, and the one that we've only been able to test briefly with two apps so far, is the introduction of native apps on the Watch.
As with all new features introduced by Apple, developers are sometimes left playing catch up, and that's the case at the time of writing.
When they do start arriving the idea is that developers will be able to not only be able run apps natively from the watch (rather than from the iPhone), but also do more than they currently can.
GoPro Watch app
GoPro will, before the end of 2015, launch a simple remote control app for the Watch and its Wi-Fi enabled GoPro Hero cameras. Accessed via the standard iOS GoPro app and the Apple Watch, users will be able to not only see what the camera sees via a live video feed, but also press record and tag highlights for editing at a later date.
Testing the app with some cameras stuck to remote controlled cars worked really well and the app is incredibly simple to use. It will certainly save you getting your phone out of your pocket, and the interface is clean and simple - unlike some of the first apps that don't really get the small interface and how to maximise its potential. The catch is that you will still need your iPhone on you, but at least you'll be able to quickly highlight your video when something epic happens.
BB-8 by Sphero
Sphero's WatchOS 2 app bolts on to its newly launched BB-8 droid and should be available before the latest Star Wars movie arrives in cinemas. It uses the accelerometer within the Apple Watch to allow you to control the robot via the movement of your wrist, or because this is a Star Wars toy, using The Force. Basic controls add to the experience of the main iPhone app, but adding the wrist movement is a lot of fun.
More apps to come
What our two demos so far show us is that WatchOS brings a lot more power to the Apple Watch in ways that Apple or developers have yet to discover. There will be a lot more to come in the future.
By adding native apps, Apple gives the device a lot more potential while at the same time cutting down dreaded load times, something the first OS is very much prone to.
Apple states that apps can now take advantage of features like the Taptic Engine, Digital Crown, accelerometer, heart rate sensor, speaker, and microphone and that should give developers plenty of tools to play with.
You will still need the iPhone for the data connection, however it should drastically speed up load times, and give your Watch a much boosted experience.
Apple WatchOS 2: Third party complications
In Apple's world, the snippets of information displayed around the watch face are called "complications".
Until now these complications have been restricted to only those Apple has deemed useful. That now changes with WatchOS 2 allowing third-party developers to offer them as well.
Those complications could be details of a flight time, signal strength, or anything else you could think of, like the estimated time of arrival or your delivery, or a football score.
As with WatchOS 2 native apps, we've yet to see any complications on our Apple Watch. We have noticed however that the activity rings complication is now multi-coloured rather than white making it stand out a lot more.
Apple WatchOS 2: New faces
Beyond the new native elements, the biggest visual change is the addition of a couple of new watch face options all revolving around photos.
Apple's offering is six timelapses from six major locations around the world including Hong Kong, London, Mack Lake, Paris, New York and Shanghai.
In addition to the moving images there is a new Photo watch face and a Photo Album watch face.
As the names suggest you can now feature your own images on the face of your Apple Watch. Setting up a new picture is easy and as you can imagine the possibilities are endless regardless of whether you go for something iconography based or merely a picture of your family.
The photo album option gives you the same focus, but like the Motion faces already available (jelly fish or butterflies), changes the image every time the screen refreshes. Perhaps an album with all your kids or your favourite places or something completely different. It is not restricted to just photos either, so you can draw up an illustration, sync it to the Photos folder you've selected, and away you go.
The only catch to these Photo faces is that you can't customise or add any complications. It's a digital clock, day, and date and that's it.
Apple WatchOS 2: Nightstand mode
For those who charge their Apple Watch on their bedside table at night, Apple's simple yet effective new mode is probably going to appeal. It's not going to make you rush out and buy a watch, but Apple's WatchOS 2 update is about adding small touches here and there to complete the picture.
Put the watch on the charger on its side and you get a horizontal face with large green numbers alongside the day and date. The screen gently brightens in the minutes leading up to an alarm, and you still get your charging details.
The watch also automatically changes the buttons too, with the side button becoming a button to turn off an alarm and the digital crown to snooze it.
Apple WatchOS 2: 70 second screen time out
One of the biggest complaints about the first WatchOS was that the 15 second screen timeout barely gave you any time to see anything on an app before the screen went black. Now in the settings you have the chance to extend this to 70 seconds. While it doesn't make apps load faster, you at least get to see them load before the screen dies. It is an issue we most notably had with Shazam. In WatchOS the app is barely useable because of the screen time out feature, now that's not a problem.
Apple WatchOS 2: Reply to email, more friends, more colour in sketches, and more
Alongside the big new features there are a number of other additions that many expected to be there from day one. All welcomed, they include the ability to reply to emails via boilerplates or Siri as you can with text messages, the ability to have multiple friend circles: handy if you want a circle just for your Apple Watch owning friends as well as your family or work colleagues, and the chance to use multiple colours in a single drawing to other Apple Watch owners.
Elsewhere there is a greater focus on more colour options for the watch faces whether that's simply the second hand or using an array of colours to highlight different elements in the Modular watch face, and activity in third-party fitness apps now counts toward filling the Activity rings - as long as those apps support that feature. Strava is one such app.
Apple WatchOS 2: Security
Apple's added new security features to WatchOS 2. There's an Activation Lock that now requires your iCloud Apple ID and password to set it up, and the ability to tell the Apple Watch Companion app to "Mark as Missing" when you've lost your Watch, which means that you'll need to re-authenticate with your Apple ID to use it again. There's also support for Apple's new longer six-digit password system introduced in iOS 9 or revert back to the four-digit "Simple Passcode" you've previously been used to using.
Apple WatchOS 2: Time Travel
No, Apple hasn't built a DeLorean, but this feature, which works with supported complications, but mostly noticeable on watch faces like the Modular watch face. It allows you to use the Digital Crown to fast forward through the day or week to not only see what's coming up in terms of appointments, but what the weather will be like and other details. If you use the Modular watch face as your main face this is a great addition and one that will come in handy, especially if you've always got lots of appointments.
Apple WatchOS 2: Siri
If you like talking to your watch, not much changes here. There are new commands to master like asking Siri to start a specific workout or check your glances, but it is not really that much different from the core experience that's been available in WatchOS 1. You still have to press the digital crown to activate Siri and still ensure you've got a good signal on your watch for it not to take forever and a day to answer you.
Apple WatchOS 2: Wi-Fi extending
You might think that WatchOS 2 bringing Wi-Fi support means that you can ditch your phone altogether, but you can't.
Rather than merely rely on the Bluetooth connection between the two devices what it now means is that as long as your iPhone and the Watch are on the same Wi-Fi network you can still use your watch. It's a feature offered by Android Wear since the 5.1 update and nice to see it included here on Apple Watch too. It is going to be really handy for people who leave their phone or their desk all the time when they walk around the office, or if you've got a big house, the ability to not have to carry your phone, but still be connected.
Apple WatchOS 2: Upgrade time
WatchOS 2 goes a long way to improving the Apple Watch experience, but there are still features missing and still things we would like Apple to fix.
Apple has done little in WatchOS 2 update to improve its standing as a sports watch to include additional features like sleep tracking for example. Nor has the company given users the ability to set how long the screen stays on for beyond 70 seconds. We understand the battery implications of both, but we're all grown ups here and having the ability to be in control of those things would appeal to many.
While we hope for those additions and much more in WatchOS 3, the simple fact is that today WatchOS 2 is still very much welcomed.
All the features add to the Apple Watch experience rather than detract from it. Many would argue that they should have been present from the start, but that's all water under the bridge. WatchOS 2 is here, and from what we've enjoyed so far, that's great news.