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Apple Watch 'theater mode' is real

WatchOS 3.2, now in beta for developers, lets you quickly mute the sound on your Apple Watch and avoid waking the screen when you raise your wrist.

Sarah Tew/CNET
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Get ready to be a little less annoyed by all of those Apple Watches in movie theaters. Maybe.

Apple on Monday introduced a beta version of its WatchOS 3.2 software to developers, letting them take advantage of new features Apple will eventually distribute to all Apple Watch users. Apple didn't say when WatchOS 3.2 would be available to all users as a software update.

The biggest additions are a new "theater mode" and the ability for third-party apps to work with the Siri digital assistant on the Apple Watch.

Theater mode has been rumored for awhile and has faced a lot of backlash. Many people have worried about fellow theater-goers texting and checking their devices more often during films. Apple's latest software for the iPhone, though, doesn't include such a mode. On the Apple Watch, the enhancements appear to be an effort to make the device less disruptive in a theater, not more. (Typically when you raise your wrist, your Apple Watch screen lights up, which is noticeable in a dark theater).

Theater Mode with WatchOS 3.2 lets you quickly mute the sound on your Apple Watch, and you'll be able to avoid waking up the screen when you raise your wrist. You'll still receive notifications, including the haptics that makes the watch vibrate on your wrist, but to view them, you'll have to tap on your Apple Watch screen or press the digital crown on the side of the device instead of just lifting your wrist.

With SiriKit on the Apple Watch, you'll be able to do things like book a ride from your watch, send text messages, and send or cancel payments. Other third-party apps that will be able to use Siri on the Apple Watch include workout apps, calling apps and apps for searching photos.

SiriKit first became available on the iPhone and iPad with iOS 10 in September. For Apple Watch, you previously could open a third-party app but not make commands within the app using Siri. You'll now be able to do more on you watch without needing your phone, as well as do more with voice commands than in the past.

Apple has been pushing Siri in more places and has plans to collect more information about users to make its digital assistant more useful. iOS 10.3, the upcoming software for iPhones and iPads, lets users choose to share iCloud data with Apple to improve Siri's capabilities.

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