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Apple Watch just got good: WatchOS 3’s best features

At WWDC 2016, Apple spent a large chunk of time launching its latest version of WatchOS, WatchOS 3. This all-new, spruced-up interface for the Apple Watch packs in loads of cool updates to existing WatchOS features, as well as brand new apps and nifty shortcuts. Here’s our pick of the best WatchOS 3 features, and why the Apple Watch is now a seriously good-looking wearable.

Apple WWDC 2016 - watchOS 3 Apple Watch

Read next: All of the big new iPhone/iPad features revealed in Apple’s iOS 10 launch

Best WatchOS 3 features: Favourite Apps

When the Apple Watch first launched, one of the biggest misgivings was the exorbitant amount of time users had to wait for apps on your wrist to pull in certain information from your phone. With watchOS 2 the problem was alleviated somewhat thanks to local apps that didn’t rely so heavily on being connected to an iOS device all the time in order to function, but now, with watchOS 3, Apple has introduced Favourite Apps.

Apple WWDC 2016 - watchOS 3 Favourite Apps

The side button now has a new purpose, summoning the dock, which offers live previews of your favourite apps with a single press. Favourite Apps can then be opened normally, but take precedence over other applications, with more content cached locally. This means users can expect these apps to load up to seven times faster than they would have with watchOS 2. Speedy. 

Best WatchOS 3 features: Control Center

For a long time now, Control Center has been a key component of the iOS experience, letting you swipe up from the bottom of the screen granting you quick access to toggles and shortcuts for things like Bluetooth connectivity and alerts. Now, watchOS 3 will feature a similarly convenient experience on the Apple Watch.

Apple WWDC 2016 - watchOS 3 Control Center

Control Center on watchOS is a little more colourful than its translucent iOS-based counterpart, but it too offers convenient access to some of the Apple Watch’s most frequently used settings.

Best WatchOS 3 features: SOS

As Apple pointed out on stage, SOS is a feature you hopefully won’t have to use all that often, but it’s nonetheless an important and useful addition to the Apple Watch’s abilities.

Apple WWDC 2016 - watchOS 3 SOS

By long-pressing the side button, your Apple Watch will automatically call the emergency services, routing the call over the mobile network provided by your iPhone or a WiFi network, depending on which one it’s connected to. The feature is intelligent enough to use your location and contact the appropriate emergency number for the country you’re in. So using SOS in the UK will call 999, but use it on the same watch in the US and it’ll switch to 911.

Once the emergency services have been contacted, SOS will then alert your chosen ICE (in case of emergency) contact, with a message your location, after which it’ll then display your medical I.D. on the watch face.

Check out our SOS feature guide.

Best WatchOS 3 features: Apple Pay and unlock on Mac

When macOS (formerly OS X) became the main point of conversation on the stage, it was revealed that Apple Pay was coming to the web. Whilst apps and websites have already implemented Apple’s payment platform within their mobile experiences, this was the first example of a desktop Apple Pay experience.

Apple WWDC 2016 - watchOS 3 Apple Pay and Unlock
Source: Apple.com

Customers purchasing goods or services on Apple Pay-supported websites will see a card pop up on-screen, whilst at the same time receive an authentication request for the pending payment on either their iPhone or Apple Watch via Continuity. It’s a clever move to keep users within the Apple ecosystem, but also a smart way to extend the functionality of both iOS and watchOS onto the desktop.

In addition, macOS Sierra will include the ability to bypass your Mac’s password screen and unlock your computer when your Apple Watch is being worn and in close proximity to it, similarly to third-party software like Near Lock.

Best WatchOS 3 features: Home control support

iOS 10 will feature a new default app called Home, which taps into Apple’s HomeKit and by proxy any HomeKit-enabled devices.

Apple WWDC 2016 - watchOS 3 Home and HomeKit

This new functionality also extends to the Apple Watch and watchOS 3, meaning you’ll be able to drive into your house and have your garage door open automatically based on your watch’s location, or with a few taps, control the lights, air conditioning, and washing machine, all from your wrist using individual switches or preset profiles, which Apple is calling Scenes.

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