Apple WatchOS 3 is faster, more intuitive and fitness-friendly

Improved performance, an app dock and Scribbles are just some of the highlights.

The Apple Watch might only be a little over one year old, but that isn't stopping Apple from introducing the wearable's third major release in a year. WatchOS 3 tackles some of the biggest gripes of early adopters, most notably performance: It keeps favorite apps in memory and updates them in the background. You won't stare awkwardly at your wrist while software loads, in other words.

The interface is getting a significant overhaul too. There's a Dock (accessible by swiping up from the home screen) that gives you quick access to favorite apps. Smart replies are now baked right into message notifications, and emergency calls are just a matter of holding down the side button. Also, as with Android Wear 2.0, you can now draw text onscreen with a Scribble mode. That's more than a little helpful for those moments when it's too noisy (or just too embarrassing) to dictate with your voice. And yes, there's the obligatory round of new watch faces, including an activity face that highlights your progress, a minimalist "numerals" face and even a Minnie Mouse face with customizable skirt colors.

This is also a big update for fitness mavens. Besides a more prominent quick start for workouts, you'll find activity sharing that both shows how friends are doing and gives you an opportunity to talk smack (or, if you're nicer, offer some motivation). WatchOS is more accommodating, to boot. You can optionally set reminders for deep breathing exercises that help manage stress, and wheelchair users get activity progress optimized for their movement patterns.

Developers should be happy too. Third-party apps can now use Apple Pay, and fitness apps can gather data in the background. They also have access to digital crown and touch events, inline video, speaker audio and existing iOS frameworks like CloudKit and Game Center.

Want to try it? A developer preview of WatchOS 3 is available today, while the finished release arrives in the fall.

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