WatchOS 4, the upcoming software update that Apple announced this week, doesn’t seem like a major shift by comparison, at least not on the surface. But beyond its obvious new features–like a new Siri watch face, better workout tracking, and the ability to grab exercise data from gym equipment–WatchOS 4 brings lots of behind-the-scenes changes, especially for third-party apps. Together, they add up to a significant change that could bring the Apple Watch much closer to its original promise.
Third-party apps on the Apple Watch used to be mostly worthless. Navigating through WatchOS to reach them was a chore, and the apps themselves were so unresponsive that taking out your phone was almost always faster and easier.
WatchOS 4 aims to be a breakthrough for standalone apps. Although Apple has allowed third-party apps to run directly on the watch since WatchOS 2, the next update will combine each app’s code and interface elements into a single process that loads at runtime. Native apps should automatically become smoother, more responsive to the touch, and faster at loading new screens as a result.
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