Time to Start Developing Apps for Apple Watch

November 06, 2017

Apple watch is a huge success, we know that they’ve sold a lot, and people love them. Apple have managed to make the most capable smartwatch the only smartwatch that regular non early adopter technology enthusiasts actually want to wear: watch people, fashion people, getting fit people, and even people with smaller wrists.

If you always want to be there for your users, it makes perfect sense to target Apple Watch. It’s the computer that is always there.

Apple Watch, The Computer That's Always There

I’ve a phone in my pocket most of the time, Alexa is always waiting for me in the kitchen and I spend hours every day in front of an old fashioned PC but it’s the watch that stays with me all day long and goes places I’d never dream of taking anything else. But more than just sometimes being the only computation available, it’s always the least intrusive computation available. Every notification I can glance at and ignore, every smart reply I can dispatch with a single tap, every app I can get in and out of in a second without taking out the phone and taking me out of a moment is a big win.

As successful as Apple Watch has been though, it has so far failed as an app platform. Apple Watch is built on the same technology that runs iPhone, and the same tools that developers use to make iPhone apps are used to make Apple Watch apps, so why are there so few Apple Watch apps, and why are so many really bad?

The original watch hardware was very limited, and app support even more so. Apps actually ran on your phone and were sort of beamed onto the watch’s screen. If you managed to find the apps on the terrible app honeycomb grid they loaded really slowly and performed terribly. A lot of developers and users were instantly turned off of third party apps, but the watch got by with the excellent built in notifications and fitness tracking functionality.

Each release of watchOS and every hardware revision has seen huge improvements to third party app support though: apps actually running natively on the watch, custom watch face complications, new capabilities, better performance, and better ways of discovering and launching apps. But the great new app platform imagined when the watch was first announced has still to arrive and many apps on your Apple Watch today likely still date back to the original release. I think we’re at a point now with Apple Watch Series 3, and watchOS 4 where there’s a huge opportunity to reach users with new compelling experiences that are only possible on Apple Watch.