The Apple Watch is expected to debut sometime this spring, and will see Apple entering a wearables market that already features an assortment of devices from tech companies like Samsung, Motorola, and LG. As CNET notes, wearables have yet to truly take off with consumers, and Apple will need to convince consumers that they want a device that behaves as much like a fitness tracker as a smartwatch.
An important question in determining how practical the device will be for a wide range of users is how they’ll be able to control and manage the device. But we may not need to wait until the Apple Watch goes on sale to learn more about how users will be able to manage the wearable; if a leaked app is to be believed, users will be able to control the Apple Watch with settings that look largely like those available on the more-familiar iPhone or iPad.
9to5Mac reports that the latest iOS 8.2 beta reveals that an Apple Watch app for the iPhone is in the works. The Verge notes that, similar to the early look at the Health app that Apple later shipped in iOS 8, the site’s leak includes numerous screenshots of the app, which play an important role in users’ interaction with and setup of the Apple Watch. Internally at Apple, the app is being called the Apple Watch “Companion” app for iPhone. The app manages settings for Apple Watch apps, as well as for the interactivity between the Apple Watch and paired iPhone. The settings reveal the level of customization that the Apple Watch will afford users, and show how the wearable will give users control over what it shows them and how it functions in conjunction with the paired iPhone.
Users will be able to manage and organize the apps on the Apple Watch home screen via a “virtual view” of the screen in the iPhone Companion app. They’ll also be able to customize the clock functions of the watch, with 9to5Mac noting that a new clock face called “Monogram” has been added as a “complication,” or a background detail that users can enable or disable. The feature will enable users to add a stamp of one to four letters (most likely their initials) on the clock face. Users can also choose to enable a red dot that will appear at the top of the clock face whenever a new notification is received on the paired iPhone, or they can choose a stock to track via a watch face complication, seeing its current price, point change, percentage change, or market cap. The same stock will also appear in Glances.
As far as how the Apple Watch will handle Messages, Apple has previously noted that users can respond to messages via voice, either through transcribed dictation or audio messages. The Companion app settings reveal that users can switch between Dictation and Audio Replies as the default method for replying to text messages, and can also choose to use either form of reply at the time they receive any individual message. They can also enable or disable read receipts, set up and manage default text replies for incoming text messages, or even choose not to receive text message alerts or receive them only from people on their contacts list.
9to5Mac notes that the Apple Watch, like other Apple products, will incorporate accessibility features. To open Accessibility Settings on the Apple Watch, users can triple-click the Digital Crown. The watch will have a VoiceOver feature that can speak the text displayed on the screen, and users can scroll through the text to be spoken with two fingers. VoiceOver will be enabled by raising the wrist or double-tapping the display. Users will also be able to zoom on the Apple Watch’s screen, using a double tap with two fingers to zoom, two fingers to pan around, and a double tap while dragging to adjust the level of zoom. Other accessibility features will reduce motion, control stereo audio balance, reduce transparency, switch to grayscale mode, disable system animations, and enable bolded text.
As with the iPhone, users of the Apple Watch will be able to set up a four-number passcode. A passcode is required to use Apple Pay, and users can only make Apple Pay payments if they’ve entered the passcode after putting the watch on their wrist. If the Apple Watch is on their wrist, users will also be able to unlock the Apple Watch by unlocking the paired iPhone, a feature that 9to5Mac notes could be intended for users who want to use lengthier passcodes. There will also be an option for Apple Watch to wipe its own data if its passcode is entered incorrectly 10 times.
The Companion app will enable the user to activate fitness features like reminders to stand up if he or she has been sitting, activity progress, goals, achievements, and weekly summaries of Move performance. Users can also activate or deactivate heart tracking to automatically calculate calories burned, or enable tracking of body movements to determine step counts and fitness level. The Companion app will feature an About screen, which will show storage capacity, the number of songs and photos stored on the device, the number of apps on the watch, the device’s serial number, and details on Bluetooth and WiFi.
The Apple Watch was first announced in September, along with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. As far as the timeframe for its release, Apple has said only that the wearable will debut in “early 2015,” but recent reports and rumors indicate that the watch is on track to ship in March. The Companion app is likely to become available at the same time with the watch, the app, and iOS 8.2 all expected to be released in March.