Watch Series 2 is out, and so is watchOS 3, and by most accounts represents a massive improvement over the original watchOS. I disagree. An improvement in performance, yes, but definitely not massive. In fact, Apple has instituted a navigation system in watchOS 3 which could have been a dramatic improvement but chose to make the interface more familiar to iPhone users, rather than do the right thing and make Watch easier to use.
First, let me back up to watchOS 2. Basic navigation was cumbersome here and there, but users made adjustments. Swipe down from the top of the Watch screen and view Notifications. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen and view Glances. Press the digital crown to view apps. Press the side button to view family and friend icons.
The original Watch, even with watchOS 2, was painful to use applications. First, press the digital crown. Second, move the honeycomb icons around and hope you hit the right one to open, Third, grab a bite to eat while waiting for the app to open. In other words, performance made using parts of Watch cumbersome and painful. What about Glances. I like Glances. Rather, I liked Glances. One swipe up from the bottom of the screen and the most recently used app would open. Navigating Glances was a simple swipe left or swipe right exercise. Apple limited the number of apps that could be used in Glances.
In watchOS 3, Glances has been removed altogether and replaced by the Control Center. Swipe up– just like in the iPhone– and get Control Center. And, as always, swipe down from the top of the screen to get Notifications. That’s how iPhone works, too.
What about Glances vs. the Dock. In Dock, Apple keeps a limited number of apps open and in memory. Watch users can determine which apps are available in the Dock, but using Dock takes extra steps that using Glances did not.
Glances: One swipe up from the bottom of the screen, then navigate as needed.
Dock: Press the side button to open the Dock, then navigate as needed, but then there’s another step to tap to bring the selected app to the front of the screen. Three steps.
Apple sacrificed ease-of-use for a common user interface theme with iPhone which put the Control Center a swipe away. How often do you use the Control Center vs. using more popular apps?
Performance in watchOS 3 is improved, yes, but mostly for those apps in the Dock. If you want to open a different app, the digital crown gets a push, and you still have to navigate through the honeycomb of app icons, and they still load very slowly.
The side button contact list is gone and I’ve talked with a dozen Watch users who say they miss it because that’s how they initiated, well, contact– press the side button, select the contact, select the action (Messages, etc.). That’s gone.
Now what do you do when you want to contact someone by email or text? There’s no Contacts app to put into the Dock. Contacts is in the Phone app (along with Favorites, which can be configured to handle contacts for messages, contacts for calls, etc– a cumbersome exercise) but try scrolling through a hundred contacts to get the one you want).
For all the alleged improvements in watchOS 3, it’s still a cumbersome device.
What about Siri?
Apple’s built-in intelligent personal assistant works fine on iPhone, works fine even on macOS Sierra (Preview version), but on Watch Siri remains mostly in nap mode, slowly rising to listen, slow to respond to anything but the most simple tasks.
Watch is a great iPhone accessory. Watch Series 2 is a good bump on the evolutionary scale. watchOS 3 will be an improvement when it hits watchOS 5 when Apple realizes customers need more control over the user interface.