Why the New Software for Apple Watch Hasn’t Arrived Yet

Stephen Lam/ Getty Images

Stephen Lam/ Getty Images

The Apple Watch is due to get a major software upgrade, which will add new features to the watch and enable developers to create much more powerful apps for the platform. The new version of the software, called watchOS 2, was slated for release on September 16, but disappointed Apple Watch owners — many of whom were more eagerly anticipating watchOS 2 than iOS 9 — when the release didn’t show up as scheduled.

Farhad Manjoo reports for The New York Times that Apple has delayed the release of watchOS 2, its new software for the Apple Watch, because it found a flaw in the software. This is the same software that will make Apple’s wearable capable of running native apps, bring more-customizable watch faces and complications to the platform, and add new functions like Time Travel and a Nightstand Mode to the watch, as the Cheat Sheet recently reported. Other new features that will arrive on the Apple Watch with watchOS 2 include expanded support for Apple’s Siri digital assistant, transit information and directions in Maps, and expanded WiFi support when the watch is out of range of the paired iPhone.

An Apple spokesperson stated regarding the current delay in watchOS2’s release, “We have discovered a bug in development of watchOS 2 that is taking a bit longer to fix than we expected. We will not release watchOS 2 today but will shortly.” Apple hasn’t elaborated further on the nature of the bug, nor on the expected length of the delay.

Eric Slivka reports for MacRumors that Apple seeded what was intended as the golden master version of watchOS 2 to developers immediately following the high-profile media event held in San Francisco on September 9. However, the company will need to make some last-minute fixes before it feels comfortable releasing the updated version of the operating system to the general public.

While Apple isn’t sharing any details on the last-minute bug, Matthew Panzarino reprots for The Verge that since watchOS 2 is a high-profile release for Apple, it’s reasonable to infer that a “relatively important system” must have been affected. While many users have expressed their disappointment at the delay, Panzarino and others consider it commendable that Apple is holding the widely-publicized release until the operating system is stable.

WatchOS 2 — and particularly its opening of the platform to powerful native apps that can take advantage of the many sensors incorporated into the wearable, plus the Digital Crown, the microphone, and the Taptic Engine — is exactly what the Apple Watch needs in order to evolve as a platform. The new operating system could also finally give rise to the elusive “killer app” for the smartwatch form factor — something that hardware manufacturers and app developers have yet to discover.

As Andrew Cunningham reports for Ars Technica, the updated operating system will also enable developers to build more complex animations for their apps, a welcome update given the fact that current WatchKit apps are “much more limited by comparison” and “largely made up of static cards.” Developers won’t yet be able to make custom watch faces, but they will be able to design complications for Apple’s existing watch faces. Cunningham reports that that means that the platform, and developers’ ability to design for it, still isn’t as flexible as it should be. But it does leave room for some “obvious” candidates for more watchOS updates in the future.

While the software update may not be enough to convince users beyond the bounds of the community of early adopters to give the Apple Watch a try, it should lay the groundwork for a wider selection of compelling apps that will appeal to the general consumer when the second generation of the Apple Watch eventually launches.

The new operating system was first unveiled at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June, and at the company’s iPhone event on September 9, executives announced its release date. They also announced that new models and bands were being added to the existing Apple Watch lineup. The Apple Watch portion of the event started off with the announcement of a collaboration between Apple and Hermes, and then progressed to a video showing off new Apple Watch models and bands, including gold and rose gold anodized aluminum finishes.

When Apple does determine that watchOS 2 is stable enough to release, it’ll be a simple process to update your Apple Watch. Just open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, tap General, and then tap Software Update to upgrade to the new operating system.

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