Inside watchOS 3: Send text messages from Apple Watch by drawing one letter at a time

Posted:
in Apple Watch edited September 2016
In addition to voice dictation, users can compose text messages via the Apple Watch with their own handwriting, thanks to the newly released watchOS 3.



In earlier version of watchOS, users wanting to send or respond to texts had to choose from pre-set messages, or to dictate a text message with their voice. These limitations sometimes left Apple Watch wearers in a position where they had to either pull their phone out of their pocket to respond, or simply ignore the message until a later time.

watchOS 3 addresses those circumstances with an entirely new way of sending and replying to messages: handwriting recognition on your wrist. The watchOS 3 Messages app adds a new writing option, identified by an icon with a letter and a hand with index finger extended.

Selecting this option brings up an entirely new entry field, where users can draw letters in a space designated by tiny dots. watchOS 3 allows users to draw one letter, then pause as it's translated into text, or they can squeeze multiple handwritten letters onto the Apple Watch display for an even quicker input method.



As the handwriting is converted to text, the words being spelled out are displayed above. To the right, a pair of up and down arrows let users know they can use the hardware Digital Crown to scroll through potential word recommendations based on the letters already typed.

Below the drawing field are shortcuts for symbol entry, putting spaces between words, and a delete button for erasing errors. Users can also draw symbols if they choose -- creating an exclamation point or period works fine in our tests.



Once the message has been properly composed, users can simply tap the "Done" button on the upper right corner of the display to send it.

While this method of entry isn't as fast as it would be on a full-fledged iPhone display, it is an efficient and simple way of allowing text entry on a small wrist-worn display, and will likely prove beneficial to Apple Watch users who want to send out the occasional quick message.

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 34
    andyvpandyvp Posts: 1member
    It works with 3rd party apps too. very nice way to respond in FB messenger on my watch.
    mightytikigod
  • Reply 2 of 34
    lukeilukei Posts: 332member
    It's a zero value function. Anything more than a one/two word answer would make phone better bet to compose message one. 
    mobiuskissthenamefreshmaker
  • Reply 3 of 34
    What happened to the Scribble button from the keynote? Replaced for the little button? Not that it matters really, just curious.
  • Reply 4 of 34
    leptonlepton Posts: 111member
    The demo also showed finger-writing in Chinese, which I think is it's major purpose.
    lollivercornchiptcuprof
  • Reply 5 of 34
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,435member
    lukei said:
    It's a zero value function. Anything more than a one/two word answer would make phone better bet to compose message one. 
    While I agree in general, it's a great feature to have. Two words max at the most, and they'd better be pretty definitive words, otherwise, out the iPhone comes. It does help move the Watch away from the iPhone and out to a broader market. Siri needs considerable improvement for reliable text entry, and even then that's not acceptable in may places. I cringe at the group of customers who will potentially have their heads even further down into their electronics, scribbling words on their wrists, one letter at a time.
    kissthename
  • Reply 6 of 34
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 2,124member
    andyvp said:
    It works with 3rd party apps too. very nice way to respond in FB messenger on my watch.

  • Reply 7 of 34
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 2,124member
    The last thing I want in my watch is any social media garbage.  That includes FB!.  I limit my notifications for things that are far more important so my watch isn't dinging me every minute to 5 minutes.  That's when you start to just ignore that like you do the phone.
  • Reply 8 of 34
    Amazing. Now I can text in a much less efficient and slower way than I can with the phone that is in my pocket a few inches from my apple watch.
    larryamobiuskissthename
  • Reply 9 of 34
    Amazing. Now I can text in a much less efficient and slower way than I can with the phone that is in my pocket a few inches from my apple watch.

    Actually not true. This is similar to the old Palm Graffitti which I loved and became so proficient with that I was writing almost as fast on the Palm as I was on paper.

    I am so happy to see this come back.

    lolliverslprescottmmatz
  • Reply 10 of 34
    JaiOh81JaiOh81 Posts: 12member
    If you have a job where being on your phone is not acceptable this gives you another option. It's not perfect but 3 options for responding to texts is better than 2.
    lolliverchiammatz
  • Reply 11 of 34
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    lukei said:
    It's a zero value function. Anything more than a one/two word answer would make phone better bet to compose message one. 
    not when your phone is elsewhere in the house. 
    lolliverchia
  • Reply 12 of 34
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,834member
    Better than not having it I suppose, but it seems a bit crude.
    mobius
  • Reply 13 of 34
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,570member
    lepton said:
    The demo also showed finger-writing in Chinese, which I think is it's major purpose.
    Have to agree when I saw the demo it was obvious it was for character based languages since they can express more with one character  it just amazes me how narrow minded or short sighted some people can be.

    Face it apple created this feature for its largest market not its second largest with is now saturated with iPhone.
    edited June 2016 tgr1
  • Reply 14 of 34
    netroxnetrox Posts: 740member
    lukei said:
    It's a zero value function. Anything more than a one/two word answer would make phone better bet to compose message one. 
    It has SOLID VALUE for deaf people who cannot speak. They can use that feature to write letters to spell out the words instead of speaking. A lot of deaf people refused to buy Apple Watch JUST because they cannot "text" - they want that kind of ability to write on watch and text. Now with that watchOS 3, many will buy it, more likely with Apple Watch 2 if cell service is intergrated.
    edited June 2016 patchythepiratetgr1
  • Reply 15 of 34
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,435member
    Amazing. Now I can text in a much less efficient and slower way than I can with the phone that is in my pocket a few inches from my apple watch.

    Actually not true. This is similar to the old Palm Graffitti which I loved and became so proficient with that I was writing almost as fast on the Palm as I was on paper.

    I am so happy to see this come back.

    Yes it really is, isn't it? Man can you imagine how much further ahead we would be if Palm had just gotten it together ...?
  • Reply 16 of 34
    mobiusmobius Posts: 377member
    netrox said:
    lukei said:
    It's a zero value function. Anything more than a one/two word answer would make phone better bet to compose message one. 
    It has SOLID VALUE for deaf people who cannot speak. They can use that feature to write letters to spell out the words instead of speaking. A lot of deaf people refused to buy Apple Watch JUST because they cannot "text" - they want that kind of ability to write on watch and text. Now with that watchOS 3, many will buy it, more likely with Apple Watch 2 if cell service is intergrated.
    Sorry, but why can't those with hard of hearing problems use their iPhone to text? I'm not trying to be rude, but I genuinely don't understand.
  • Reply 17 of 34
    mobiusmobius Posts: 377member
    lukei said:
    It's a zero value function. Anything more than a one/two word answer would make phone better bet to compose message one. 
    not when your phone is elsewhere in the house. 
    There comes a point where it would be better to go and get your phone. I suppose there might be cases where this isn't possible/desirable - ie it's charging, or you don't want to miss your TV show, or you are baby sitting etc
  • Reply 18 of 34
    When I saw this on the Keynote, my first thought was that the new iPhones this fall will support the Apple Pencil!
  • Reply 19 of 34
    If you don't have a watch now it will be difficult understand that this feature will be handy in certain situations.  For most people it will not be the preferred method but a nice option for specific situations.  I don't think anyone thinks it the best method, just an option.  
    Watching the keynote I immediately thought of times where it would be handy, probably only a couple times a month but handy. 
    macguicornchipmmatz
  • Reply 20 of 34
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,264member
    It's amusing to see the same people come up with scenarios where something won't work and ignore or discount those where it will, because of their short-sighted, narrow-minded "If I don't like it, nobody else can" narcissism.

    Of COURSE this wouldn't be used when lengthy responses are required, and where using the iPhone would be more efficient.

    The Watch has several canned responses and allows some custom ones to be added. Sometimes they  just don't apply. Whether you enter a kanji or just write 8:00, 0800, 8pm, today, Dory, or whatever, there are times for some of us where a one or two word text or reply would get the job done, but isn't in the list. A quick scribble on the watch gets the job done by the time you get your phone out of your pocket and wake it up.

    In such situations, it can be done quicker than reaching for a phone to send a simple, short, efficient text. If I want to TEXT, I use the phone. But for a quick response, this is a great feature.

    Using the Watch where and when it's the best tool for the job has become second nature to me. I welcome the Quick Response Text Overlords. It's the sum total of little things like this that make the Watch more and more useful to me.

    Like many features of the Watch, it's optional and easily ignored if it's not useful to you. It's nice to have options.
    kevin keechiammatz
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