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WWDC 2016 kicks off as Apple unveils watchOS 3

Updated Jun 13th, 2016 1:41PM EDT
WWDC 2016 watchOS 3

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Just weeks after reporting the first ever quarterly drop in iPhone sales, Apple is taking the stage at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, California for WWDC 2016. The developer conference often feels like a victory lap in between iPhone announcements, but this year, the company has something to prove.

Starting with a bang, Apple has announced watchOS 3.

READ MORE: Live coverage of WWDC 2016: iOS 10, macOS, Siri, MacBooks and more

Apple’s top priority for the next version of the Apple Watch platform is performance. With watchOS 3, Apple Watch users will be able to keep apps running in memory as well as receive background updates and refreshed information. Apple has also significantly decreased the time it takes to launch a watchOS app.

Bringing the platform closer to that of it brethren, Apple has also added a Control Center to watchOS 3. Just swipe up from the bottom of the screen and a Control Center with multiple quick options will appear.

In addition, Apple has added new reply options to Messages and a new touch keyboard called Scribble, which lets you draw on the display.

For the Disney fans, Apple revealed that a Minnie Mouse watch face would be joining the current Mickey Mouse face. The company also added the ability to switch watch faces from the lock screen simply by swiping.

Along with all these sweeping changes, Apple has also changed the name of the side button to the “dock button,” as it will now allow users to access the Dock (which will be stocked with all of the currently running apps). Apple is also redesigning the Find My Friends and Reminders apps for watchOS 3.

A brand new feature coming to the new watchOS is called SOS: hold down the dock button and as long as you’re connected to Wi-Fi or within range of your phone, the Apple Watch will call 911. Once the call has concluded, the watch will message your emergency contacts and pull up your medical ID.

Activity share is coming to the Activity app, giving users the ability to share their workouts with friends, send their heartbeats to one another, as well as audio and text messages. There will also be new features specifically for wheelchair users.

The final app that Apple showed off was called Breathe. This app guides users through breathing exercises throughout the day, with gorgeous visuals and haptic feedback to help you along the way.

And finally: Apple Pay is coming to watchOS apps.

A watchOS 3 preview build is available today, with a full, free release planned for the fall. This is the most significant update the Apple Watch has seen so far.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.