Last week I discussed the numerous reasons that I think that lawyers will love iOS 12, due out for the iPhone and iPad this Fall. Apple will also update the operating system for the Apple Watch this Fall, and it looks like there will be some nice additions. Here are the features that I am most looking forward to.
When it comes to using my Apple Watch in my law practice, one of the things that I like best is using my Apple Watch to handle my notifications. There are many ways to control which notifications are important enough to deserve a tap on your wrist, and it is quick and easy to glance at my wrist and see the notification without significantly disrupting whatever I am working on.
In iOS 12, notifications on the iPhone can be grouped, making them easier to manage. The same is true for watchOS 5, which should make it faster and easier to deal with multiple notifications at the same time.
watchOS 5 will also add more advanced Do Not Disturb functions. For example, you can tell your Apple Watch not to disturb you for a specific period of time, or until you leave the current location.
Additionally, apps will be able to create watch notifications that are interactive. For example, Yelp can send you a notification that your table is ready, and right on the watch you can tap to extend the reservation for 20 minutes because you are running late.
Another feature that I mentioned when discussing iOS 12 is the new Shortcuts app. It is an expanded version of the Workflow app already available for the iPhone, but the new version will allow you to create shortcuts that can be triggered by Siri using a voice command that you choose. watchOS 5 will support this as well, which is convenient for those times when your iPhone is not in your pocket and you want to just talk to your watch. And even when your iPhone is close by, just saying a command to your watch might be faster and easier.
For example, I can imagine creating a command triggered by me saying a phrase like "on my way" which will send a message to my wife which says something like "I'm leaving now, and I should be home in X minutes." All I would need to do is tell my Apple Watch "on my way," and it will figure out where I am located, how many minutes it will take me to drive home, and then it will send the appropriate text message to my wife.
The ability to automate tasks, combined with the power to trigger those tasks using a phrase that you select, will be an incredibly powerful function on both the iPhone and the Apple Watch.
And by the way, speaking of Siri, there will be a new feature whereby you don't have to first say "Hey Siri" before giving a command and instead can just raise your wrist and speak. I'm curious how this will work in practice, and a little concerned about false positives when you lift your arm for some other reason, but if this works well it could be very useful.
The new Walkie-Talkie app will allow you to press a button on your Apple Watch and say a short message, and then the message will automatically play on an Apple Watch of a friend or family member. And they can do the same thing to quickly respond. Press to talk, let go to listen. It's a very simple way to communicate.
The Apple Watch does a great job of encouraging you to be more active and monitoring your workouts. This will get even better in watchOS 5. A new "Competition" feature will allow you to compete with another person in closing your rings every week. The watch will be able to track new types of workouts, including yoga and hiking, and if you forget to press the buttons to start or stop a workout, the watch will detect when you have done so. And if you have a target pace when you run or walk, the Workouts app will help you keep track with your desired pace.
You can currently use an Apple Watch to listen to music even without an iPhone nearby. This Fall, you will also be able to listen to podcasts using only the Apple Watch. Apple's own Podcasts app will work, and it looks like it might be possible for third party apps — such as my favorite podcast app, Overcast — to do the same.
Safari on the Apple Watch?
Using a web browser on a watch seems silly, and no, Apple isn't adding a Safari app. However, in watchOS 5, when you get an email or text message with a website link, you will be able to tap the link on the watch to see a version of the web page optimized for the watch screen. If you don't have your iPhone with you and are just using an Apple Watch with cellular, and if you are just trying to get a quick piece of information from a website such as an address or phone number, this could be very useful.