Apple Watch 1.01 update: what it is and how to get it

Less than a month after the Watch first arrived on people's wrists, Apple has released an update to improve some of its core features

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The Independent Tech

Last night, Apple announced that its Watch had new software available. That was quick: it’s still less than four weeks since the first Watches were delivered to customers and shipping times meant that most people have yet to receive them.

If you’re a Watch owner, bringing your timepiece’s software up to date is pretty simple. Launch the companion app on the iPhone, the one that shows a side-on view of the Watch on a black background, and pick the My Watch tab. Tap General, then Software Update. Then you just accept the update and make sure your Watch is in range of the iPhone, charged to over 50 per cent and resting on its charging cable. The download on my Watch took seven minutes and installation a few minutes more.

So what can you expect from the update? Well, one thing that hasn’t changed is battery life. I’ve been wearing the Watch for over seven weeks now and it’s the persistent question I’m asked: “Do you have to recharge in the afternoon?”

The battery life on the Watch is brilliant – which is why it’s not changing, I guess – and has literally never needed to be recharged before bedtime. On a couple of occasions it’s dropped near to 10 per cent but mostly at 11pm it’ll have at least 25 per cent charge left. Which is more than I do.

Apple has focused on other things and has put Siri at the top of its list. With a screen as small as a watch has, a QWERTY keyboard was never going to work. So voice recognition is crucial. Apple designed the Watch so when you lift it to wake the screen, Siri wakes too and if you say the magic words (disappointingly these are just Hey Siri and not actual wizardly incantations), the Watch listens.

This worked reasonably well, though it’s true there was a timing skill to be learnt: speak too soon and it missed some of your words. This now seems much improved. You can start talking as soon as the screen lights up.

There are improvements to how the Watch measures your activity using the built-in motion sensor. So when it nudges you to stand, as it does each hour, it’ll calculate this differently. Apple doesn’t say how this has changed but it seemed less dependent on continuous movement, which is handy if you’re in a meeting and want to make your stand activity more discreet, say. It’ll also give you different results now for cycling and rowing workouts indoors. I haven’t tried this, but personally I hope it means more credit for less work. Is that wrong? The update claims it will be more accurate on outdoor walks and runs, too.

 

There are fixes for Accessibility issues, too, which again I haven’t tried.

And now the improved range of emoji which arrived on the iPhone with the recent iOS 8.3 update are available from the Watch. Finally you can have access to all those screaming dogs, mimsy-faced cats and er, a smiling poo it looks like. You need to make sure they’re in your recently used set. Or you could, you know, use actual words.

Third-party apps will see improved responsiveness, which is a real benefit. Some apps took ages to load and while there are limits to speed and how much latency can be minimised, any enhancement is welcome. I’ve only tried this extensively with Glances – the quick glimpse of the latest weather, currency values, Citymapper and other apps. There’s definitely a quicker response here especially, it seems, if you’ve glanced at an app already today. And it seems that the content has changed even when the Watch wasn’t showing it, which speeds things up, too.

There’ll doubtless be many more updates to come for the Apple Watch, but these are welcome advances.

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