These 10 amazing watchOS 2 features will make Apple Watch worth buying

Apple Watch needed some software fixes that watchOS 2 promises to deliver.

watchos 2

Generation 2.0 has arrived

Six weeks after Apple Watches began arriving on doorsteps around the world, Apple already has a major update in the works. While watchOS 2 won’t debut until this fall, the Cupertino company used its annual Worldwide Developers Conference keynote on Monday to show off what you can expect from your upgraded watch. Get ready: These 10 features will turn the Apple Watch from a nice-to-have into a must-have.

apple watch workout

Apps gone native

Apple Watches shipped with watchOS 1.0, which supports third-party apps but requires them to push all of the heavy lifting to your iPhone. Apps that don’t run natively (so anything other than Apple’s built-in watch apps) currently aren’t allowed to tap into all of the watch’s hardware features, like the accelerometer, Taptic Engine, microphone, and heart rate sensor. That changes with watchOS 2. Apple is opening up its features to app developers and letting them test the watch’s boundaries.

Instead of waiting for the watch’s native Activity app to relay your heart rate to the iPhone Health app using HealthKit, third-party apps can run natively and collect that information on their own.

Ideally, this means we’ll see developers make use of features like the Taptic Engine in really interesting ways. You can also expect your watch apps to run much faster, because native apps won’t have to wait for your iPhone to respond.

watchos 2 activation lock

Activation lock

Apple has faced criticism over the Apple Watch’s security—specifically, how easy it is to steal and wipe the watch, even if you don’t know the passcode. watchOS 2 changes that with Activation Lock.

When you activate your Apple Watch, you’ll be required to enter your iCloud Apple ID and password, so the device is tied to your account and no one can use your watch if it’s stolen. This feature is optional, but a good move on Apple’s part.

watchos 2 faces

New faces

The current line-up of Apple Watch faces is appealing, but just like with your iPhone home screen background, sometimes you'd rather personalize your device than use a stock image. watchOS 2 allows you to choose from either a time-lapsed skyline scene (which looks very cool in action), a still photo from your own collection, or a curated album of favorites that rotates through images in your library every time you raise your wrist. It's a simple change, but a welcome one.

watchos 2 complications

Third-party complications

Some watch faces (though not the brand-new ones coming in watchOS 2), show complications—little pieces of helpful information like the time in other cities, the temperature outside, and how close you are to reaching your Activity goals. The new OS will open up those complications to app developers so you can add even more information to your watch face—or swap out weather with something more relevant to you, like your airline departure time.

watchos 2 time travel

Time travel

The next-gen watchOS offers a new way to view your life with Time Travel. The new feature gives you an overview of your day (or yesterday, or tomorrow). Just ue the Digital Crown to scroll through your schedule and see contextual information like what the weather will be like during your trip tomorrow or the emails you missed from yesterday. A press of the Digital Crown returns your display to its watch face.

If this feature sounds similar to Pebble’s Timeline, well, that’s because it is. Timeline isn’t quite as elegant as Time Travel, but it’s an innovative way to use time as a user interface that goes beyond just numbers on a display. Like Timeline, Time Travel will pull in information from third-party apps, and will be particularly useful on watch faces that allow third-party complications.

watchos 2 rewards

Apple Pay rewards you

The ability to use retailer loyalty programs and store credit and debit cards is a must-have for many Apple Pay users, and soon that support will roll out to both iPhones and Apple Watches. Just double-click the side button and pick the card you want to use, same as before. Except now you’ll be rewarded with points that you would otherwise miss out on, which might boost Apple Pay’s use when that feature rolls out this fall. Major partners in that initative include Walgreens, JCPenney, and Dunkin Donuts—you know, all the essentials.

watchos 2 maps

Mass transit on your wrist

We like the Maps app for Apple Watch, which taps you on your wrist to give you turn-by-turn directions instead of verbally interrupting you. But, just like on the iPhone, Maps lacked crucial information for people in major metropolitan areas: public transit directions. Like iOS 9, watchOS 2 is getting a major Maps upgrade, complete with mass transit info. The watch’s Maps app will even give you walking directions to and from your transit stop, so you never have to reach for your iPhone.

watchos 2 siri

Siri's new powers

Because you can only use your voice to communicate with your watch, not text, Siri has become more useful than ever. watchOS 2 upgrades her to the next level with new capabilities: Now Siri can start a workout for you, retrieve public transit information from Maps, open Glances without a swipe, and communicate with your HomeKit accessories based on your verbal commands.

watchos 2 nightstand

Wake me up

When I take off my Apple Watch at night and plug it in, it becomes, for all intents and purposes, useless to me. It doesn't do anything but sit there and tell me how charged its battery is. That's useful and all, but watchOS 2 makes your charging watch informative with Nightstand mode. When you tap the screen, the Digital Crown, or the side button, the watch will display the time, date, and battery percentage. And when you set an alarm on your watch, you'll be able to click the side button to turn it off or the Digital Crown to snooze it.

watchos 2 friends

Circles of 12

Some Apple Watch owners have more than 12 friends and felt incredibly limited by the number of slots you could fill in your watch Friends. With watchOS 2, you can add multiple groups of 12 and organize those contacts, the groups, and their names in your iPhone’s Apple Watch app. You can also add friends from your Contacts list directly on your watch.