Yesterday’s WWDC was full of all sorts of interesting announcements for all sorts of Apple-related operating systems. A lot of really impressive stuff is in the works, but the most significant change for the Apple Watch has got to be allowing for native apps (i.e. apps that are installed directly on the watch rather than piggybacking over from the iPhone).
Native apps on the Apple Watch is a huge deal because it’s basically correcting one of the biggest problems many watch developers have been encountering with WatchKit: not being able to access most of the hardware’s features. Some have mentioned not being able to use the digital crown for anything other than scrolling the screen up and down. Others have said that some obvious features like being able to disable the automatic screen shut off simply aren’t available. Apparently most of the watch’s sensors (even the speaker and microphone) aren’t even accessible in WatchKit. Some of these problems could be attributed to developers trying to rush their apps out the door with the launch of the Apple Watch while not having access to a device for testing until the very last minute (also not cool Apple), but excluding such basic functionality seems like a massive oversight. Thankfully the new Watch OS should turn all of that around.
Of course, not all developers have been having this problem as a lot of the usability limitations depend on the intended functions of the app itself. I mean if there’s no need to use the accelerometer or tap into the heart rate monitor then why worry about it? WatchKit also seems to be handling notifications and custom glances quite well, in addition to just being easy to develop for. This is all great but there’s so much more potential here that, up until now, seems to have been gated off for little to no reason.
Right now we have some relatively useful apps and a bunch that feel underwhelming. But imagine how that’s going to change once Watch OS 2 is available for everybody. So much of what has already been speculated on could become a reality - along with lots of other stuff I’m sure nobody has thought of yet. That’s what makes it all so exciting.