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I’ve been an Apple fan since several years before the first Macintosh made its appearance a day after my birthday back in 1984. I’ve owned almost every piece of hardware Apple ever made, including the Newton tablet. So naturally, when the Apple Watch came on the market I had to have one. It turned out to be a powerful tool for me as a dance teacher. Sadly, with the new 10.x WatchOS system update, inexplicable changes have made using it a frustrating experience.

Like thousands of dance teachers, Zumba teachers and others around the world, I have my iPhone connected to a professional audio system when I’m in the studio. The Apple Watch is then used to start and stop the music, change songs, and change the volume as needed. I’ve done this since the first version of Apple Watch (and it was truly impressive back then). I personally know a number of dance teachers who bought the Apple Watch specifically for that purpose.

Then in 2018, Apple released WatchOS4.0 which broke important functionality when using an Apple Watch to control an iPhone. Someone at Apple had the brilliant idea that to play music on the Apple Watch required you to do so through a Bluetooth device connected directly to the watch. And you couldn’t even select the iPhone! Fortunately, just a couple of months later that issue was fixed with the release of WatchOS 4.3.

While there were still numerous issues with this configuration, there was enough functionality that we were able to live with it. Until now.

Above left: A typical Apple Watch screen showing several Complications. The Music Complication is on the bottom right, showing the name of the currently selected song. Above center: When you tap the Music Complication you see the song and its album cover, with the ability to rewind. There are also options to repeat or shuffle. Above right: You can scroll the songs in the playlist by using the digital crown.

With the release of WatchOS 10.x, using the Apple Watch to control music on an iPhone has become enormously frustrating.

Now, when you pause the music, within a few minutes the Music Complication (the little icons in the corner of the watch are called Complications) times out. This has actually been an issue for a while, but it got a lot worse. It now times out very quickly. In fact, if you are running the Fitness app on the watch, it times out within a few seconds of stopping a song.

Pausing the music for a bit is something we teachers do all the time. We discuss technique, or choreography, without the distraction of the music in the background. Then, when the students are ready, we play the song again, perhaps from where we left off, or perhaps from the beginning. Occasionally we like to find a different piece of music. Doing so from the Apple Watch makes sense.

When you’re teaching, it’s a nuisance to have to walk 30 or 40 feet back to your music station every time you want to start or stop the music and then walk back onto the floor to continue the class. Back and forth. Back and forth. It disrupts the class. It wastes time that people are paying for. That’s why it is so great to be able to use the Apple Watch as a remote control for the iPhone.

As soon as the Music Complication times out, instead of showing the song that was previously playing, the Complication just shows the word “Music.” That word is the death knell for the flow of the class. Because getting back to the song that was playing becomes so hard it’s simply not worth trying. You literally have to start from scratch, connecting to a device, going to your Library, selecting a Playlist, then scrolling through a hundred or more songs in an effort to find the one you were previously playing. All of that while people who are paying for your time don’t get what they are paying for. Instead, it’s easier and less time consuming to walk back to the iPhone that’s some 40 feet away and hit the play button on that device.

What engineer thought this was a good User Interface experience? What possible purpose does it serve to time out the Music Complication like that? It achieves nothing that I can see. Instead, it just creates an enormous amount of frustration at engineers who don’t understand how real people work.

What engineer thought this was a good User Interface experience?

Above left: When the Music Complication inexplicably times out after the music is paused, the name of the song is replaced by the word Music. Above center: When you tap the Music Complication you get the Not Playing screen, which is essentially useless. Above right: Tapping the play button requires you to connect to a Bluetooth device, after which you have to go through a very long and complex process of reselecting a Playlist, then scrolling through hundreds of songs to find the one you were previously playing. It’s easier to walk back to the iPhone some 40 feet away and hit the play button there than go through all that hassle.

Apple’s reputation was built on the premise that technology should enhance our lives. A very old Apple brochure that I still have describes how Apple engineers once asked themselves, “Why teach people how to use computers when we can teach computers to understand people?” It was a brilliant concept that set Apple apart from every other technology company. That’s why this change appears so inexplicable. It’s so out of character for a company that prides itself on ease of use.

Other dance teachers have also expressed frustration over this issue. We cannot understand why such a fundamental feature as being able to control your iPhone’s music from your watch has been so severely crippled. What were you thinking, Apple? Where’s the upside to this change?

When the Music Complication times out, there’s simply no way to quickly restore the song that was previously playing. You have to select your Library, select a Playlist, and then painstakingly scroll through literally hundreds of songs trying desperately to find the one that was playing, all of the time being aware that your role as a teacher is on hold and people are paying for this wasted process. It makes no sense at all.

The only way that the Apple Watch now has any value for this kind of music playback is if you are already holding your iPhone in your hand and using it to select your music. What’s the point of that? Isn’t the whole idea of the Apple Watch to free you from being tethered to your phone?

Isn’t the whole idea of the Apple Watch to free you from being tethered to your phone?

If you are one of those dancers or teachers, or fitness class leaders affected by this change, I urge you to contact Apple Feedback and let them know. If there is enough of a public outcry, there’s a chance that someone will reconsider this ill-fated decision.

To give your feedback, visit

Does this change affect you? If so, use the comment area below to leave feedback and make sure to share this post.

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George Pytlik

Author George Pytlik

Before turning pro, George achieved impressive results as an amateur competitor, holding the Senior (30+) Latin championship in BC, Canada for 7 consecutive years with his wife Wendy. The couple twice achieved a top-3 Canadian ranking in Senior Latin as well as a 3rd place Canadian ranking in 30+ Ten Dance. Today, George and Wendy are professional teachers with a vision of growing a strong dance community in Delta near Vancouver, BC.

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