Inside watchOS 3: Apple Watch gets more familiar with dedicated dock button

Posted:
in Apple Watch edited September 2016
This week's launch of watchOS 3 brought about fundamental changes to the way the Apple Watch hardware and software interact with each other, including a rare admission by Apple that a number of key concepts introduced with its wearable device missed the mark.




Previously, the hardware side button on the Apple Watch brought up a list of contacts for sending Digital Touch messages. Apple initially thought quick access to this menu would help to make the Apple Watch a deeply personal device, connecting with others in new and intimate ways.

As it turns out, Digital Touch didn't catch on in the way Apple had hoped. And so in an about-face, the company rethought the use of the side button with watchOS 3, along with other major elements of the wrist-worn operating system.
In reinventing the watch for watchOS 3, Apple has looked to iOS and macOS, borrowing the concept of an application dock for recently and frequently used apps.
Starting with watchOS 3, pressing the side button will instead bring up a new application dock. In reinventing the watch, Apple has decided to turn to a familiar concept, echoing the docks already found on macOS and iOS.

The watchOS 3 dock shows recently opened apps, and also present a recent screenshot of the app, providing users with quick access to information. Apps also remain in a paused state, allowing them to open much more quickly than in previous watchOS builds.

Users can customize the dock by pinning apps of their choosing, ensuring they will always be quickly accessible when pressing the side button on the Apple Watch.

The new app dock replaces the concept of Glances that was introduced with the first watchOS and remained in watchOS 2.

Here is yet another admission by Apple that a concept it heralded with the first-generation Apple Watch simply wasn't working --?Glances from third-party apps proved slow to load, and flipping between them was cumbersome and inefficient. By going back to the drawing board, Apple hopes that watchOS 3 will help shape the future of wearable devices and make the Apple Watch even more essential than before.

While Glances got the ax watchOS 3, Digital Touch remains --?just without quick access via the side button. In fact, Digital Touch support has grown, expanding to iPhone and iPad with iOS 10, where it is featured directly within the Messages app.

Eliminating Glances also forced Apple to rethink access to common settings and controls, which were previously made available in the Glances view. Here again, Apple has borrowed from iOS and introduced a new Control Center for watchOS 3, allowing users to swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access most-used settings.

Editor's note: This article was originally published in June following Apple's announcement of watchOS 3 at WWDC 2016. It is being republished to coincide with the wearable operating system's public release. For more on watchOS 3, see AppleInsider's ongoing Inside watchOS 3 series.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 41
    irelandireland Posts: 17,521member
    Using the side button for said feature is a smart move. It could make performing a quick task even faster than Siri. Smart move. Getting rid of glances was also smart. Having glances on a display of this size was never going to fly long term.
    edited June 2016 jbdragonlolliverrepressthislatifbpalbegarcnetrox
  • Reply 2 of 41
    levilevi Posts: 344member
    Access via side button feels a little clunky - much preferred acess via upward swipe. Better than contacts I suppose. I wonder how useful scribbles will be. 
    macplusplus
  • Reply 3 of 41
    levilevi Posts: 344member
    ireland said:
    Using the side button for said feature is a smart move. It could make performing a quick task even faster than Siri. Smart move. Getting rid of glances was also smart. Having glances on a display of this size was never going to fly long term.
    Glances were great for several things - control center, remote/music control, battery, activity rings, maps launch. I guess the difference now is that it opens the full app.
    nolamacguypte applejbdragonpatchythepiratemacgui
  • Reply 4 of 41
    Scribbles will be huge. Sending a quick note by spelling will be great. You can't interrupt everyone with Siri when you're in an important meeting.
    jbishop1039chialolliverrepressthisradarthekatpatchythepiratemacguialbegarcjbdragon
  • Reply 5 of 41
    schlackschlack Posts: 679member
    ui seems much better than the current version...looking forward to it...but generally...the watch has too many hidden interactions, from arbitrary force touch actions, single vs double button clicks, and swipes from all sides of the watch.
    anantksundaramrepressthis1983macgui
  • Reply 6 of 41
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,198member
    Are glances gone? Is that for sure? 
  • Reply 7 of 41
    irelandireland Posts: 17,521member
    asdasd said:
    Are glances gone? Is that for sure? 
    100% gone. Dock feature via side button has replaced glances feature and swipe up for Notification Center has replaced swipe up for glances.
    edited June 2016 jbdragonlolliver
  • Reply 8 of 41
    mubailimubaili Posts: 385member
    the first time since I owned the Apple Watch it ran out of battery in 4 pm after I installed the watchOS 3. before watchOS 3, the battery would normally be around 60% level at 4 pm. I am worried.
  • Reply 9 of 41
    irelandireland Posts: 17,521member
    mubaili said:
    the first time since I owned the Apple Watch it ran out of battery in 4 pm after I installed the watchOS 3. before watchOS 3, the battery would normally be around 60% level at 4 pm. I am worried.
    You sound like a n00b. Someone else explain this, please.
    jbdragonlolliverrepressthislatifbppatchythepirate
  • Reply 10 of 41
    So with the side button, it's one click for Dock, two clicks for Apple Pay & press and hold for SOS, correct? Where's the Lock and Power menu going then? Relegated to Settings I guess? Just curious.
    repressthis
  • Reply 11 of 41
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,363member
    Scribbles will be huge. Sending a quick note by spelling will be great. You can't interrupt everyone with Siri when you're in an important meeting.
    Sorry not from my perspective. If it's truly one or two words, yes. But otherwise, I'd rather just pull out my iPhone. Don't get me wrong, it's a great feature to have, but my bet is people are going to abuse it to scribble out long-ish messages when they should be using Siri, or their iPhones. It's going to be a whole new level of people absorbed in their technology focused on their wrists ...
  • Reply 12 of 41
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 18,871member
    schlack said:
    ui seems much better than the current version...looking forward to it...but generally...the watch has too many hidden interactions, from arbitrary force touch actions, single vs double button clicks, and swipes from all sides of the watch.
    I agree. It would be nice to have greater parallelism between apps.


    jbishop1039 said:

    So with the side button, it's one click for Dock, two clicks for Apple Pay & press and hold for SOS, correct? Where's the Lock and Power menu going then? Relegated to Settings I guess? Just curious.
    It's one click for Dock using the Digital Crown, not the side button. Currently, one click on the side button gets you to frequent contacts, also perhaps that'll get replaced with the Lock/Power menu.
    edited June 2016
  • Reply 13 of 41
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 18,871member

    ireland said:
    Getting rid of glances was also smart. Having glances on a display of this size was never going to fly long term.
    I've found Glances to be one of the most interesting, intuitive, and useful features on the Watch. I hope that, whatever it is they replace it with, it is equally so.
    cornchip
  • Reply 14 of 41
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,330member
    I'm happy that they're so willing to give up concepts that weren't working. Smartwatches are still so new, that it will take some time to find out the best way to do things. It's like the old pocket watch vs the wristwatch. The pocket watch worked, but the wristwatch enabled mobile timekeeping to really take off.
    latifbppatchythepiratechiaalbegarcloquitur
  • Reply 15 of 41
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 1,964member
    melgross said:
    I'm happy that they're so willing to give up concepts that weren't working. Smartwatches are still so new, that it will take some time to find out the best way to do things. It's like the old pocket watch vs the wristwatch. The pocket watch worked, but the wristwatch enabled mobile timekeeping to really take off.
    I expected as much.  As you use it over time you figure out what really works and what doesn't.  So I expected some changes like this at some point.  Hell, I've never sent a heart beat or a picture to another Apple Watch user.

    I think the over all changes are for the better.  I can't wait to update my watch that I'm wearing now later this year.  Running beta software in your primary device is pretty dumb.  I'll just wait.

  • Reply 16 of 41
    schlack said:
    ui seems much better than the current version...looking forward to it...but generally...the watch has too many hidden interactions, from arbitrary force touch actions, single vs double button clicks, and swipes from all sides of the watch.
    I agree. It would be nice to have greater parallelism between apps.


    It's one click for Dock using the Digital Crown, not the side button. Currently, one click on the side button gets you to frequent contacts, also perhaps that'll get replaced with the Lock/Power menu.
    Nope, clicking Digital Crown is still to bring up the app/home screen. One click of the side will now be the dock. Says so right in the keynote. My guess is that Lock/Power heads to Settings. Lock is already in Control Centre. Or an even longer press on the side button, but that seems the most unlikely. Already enough functions in that button now.
  • Reply 17 of 41
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 3,750member
    I've seen so many hot takes that this is Apple completely re-thinking the Watch. I disagree. I think all the changes were good but not major. The only big change was repurposing the side button to an app switcher (which is where glances went). And in a few places you can swipe vs force touching (not sure if force touch was removed or Apple just provided another option). Outside of that not a lot of major changes. I get the feeling this is just a media meme (because everyone in the tech media bubble said Apple had to re-do the software) and they would have written these stories no matter what Apple did.
  • Reply 18 of 41
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 3,750member
    ireland said:
    Using the side button for said feature is a smart move. It could make performing a quick task even faster than Siri. Smart move. Getting rid of glances was also smart. Having glances on a display of this size was never going to fly long term.
    As far as I know they didn't get rid of glances. When you press the side button and get the app dock those are live views of the app. Though perhaps I misunderstood what they said in the keynote. Anyway I disagree about glances. I would use them more if latency wasn't so bad. My fingers are crossed that watchOS 3 really does deliver on the performance claims.

    EDIT: I just re-watched the keynote and Kevin Lynch said the app dock is both glanceable and interactive so it seems that is indeed where glances went.
    edited June 2016 jbishop1039repressthismacgui
  • Reply 19 of 41
    lolliverlolliver Posts: 311member
    mubaili said:
    the first time since I owned the Apple Watch it ran out of battery in 4 pm after I installed the watchOS 3. before watchOS 3, the battery would normally be around 60% level at 4 pm. I am worried.
     
    ireland said:
     
    You sound like a n00b. Someone else explain this, please.

    Either a n00b or a troll but either way:

    It's Beta software, battery life is generally poor early on but this will be fixed. As the bugs are squashed during the beta testing phase battery life will improve. Quite often by the time the GM (Gold Master/public release version) is seeded the battery life is better than the previous version of the OS.

    If you have issues with beta software draining what should be your testing device then you shouldn't be installing beta software. This is for developers to prepare their apps for the new release. At least what until the 3rd or 4th public beta release if battery life is such an issue for you.

    repressthisradarthekatjbishop1039albegarc
  • Reply 20 of 41
    kevin keekevin kee Posts: 946member
    ireland said:
    Using the side button for said feature is a smart move. It could make performing a quick task even faster than Siri. Smart move. Getting rid of glances was also smart. Having glances on a display of this size was never going to fly long term.
    As far as I know they didn't get rid of glances. When you press the side button and get the app dock those are live views of the app. Though perhaps I misunderstood what they said in the keynote. Anyway I disagree about glances. I would use them more if latency wasn't so bad. My fingers are crossed that watchOS 3 really does deliver on the performance claims.

    EDIT: I just re-watched the keynote and Kevin Lynch said the app dock is both glanceable and interactive so it seems that is indeed where glances went.
    You were right, the app dock consist of 'live' apps - which essentially a glance, but instead of two separate ways to show them, it will be only one. The 'live' app is both glance and full app. The good thing is, they reside inside the memory so accessing them now will be way faster. I hope Apple limit the number of 'live' apps one can access from the button to, say, the last 10 apps one accessed previously. Because honestly, an unlimited 'live' views will stupidly drain the battery.
    edited June 2016 macgui
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