Announced back in September alongside the iPhone 6, the Apple Watch has been quite the talk of the tech community since Apple unveiled their foray into the smart-watch realm.
Aside from the little demos Apple has given to the press and public, not much has been known about how the Apple Watch will actually work for developers—until now. Known as WatchKit, the development platform and guidelines are now available from Apple. For first time, we are now able to dig a little deeper into Apple's new platform. Diving into the myriad of documents and guidelines released by Apple reveals a number of new facts about the Apple Watch.
One of the most interesting things I found on Apple's WatchKit page is that Apple Watch apps come in two components: the WatchKit extension and the UI elements installed on the watch. According to The Verge, who delved extensively deep into Apple's new development guidelines, an iPhone will be mandatory to use Apple Watch apps. Apparently, the watch won't have much function without being connected to an iPhone, especially in regards to third-party apps. This is because most of the processing power is done by the user's iPhone, which then sends information back and forth to the watch, according to The Verge.
Unfortunately, Apple stated in their press release that fully native Apple Watch apps won't be coming till next year. This means that for the time being, all Apple Watch apps must be extension functions of iPhone apps, which is probably what most people expect anyway.
For right now, third-party WatchKit apps will have three primary functions:
- A full app UI that users can launch and interact with
- Provide read-only glances of information to the user
- Show actionable notifications the user can interact with from their watch
The last thing of interest was that any and all maps that third-party developers show to a user on the watch are only static, according to the Verge. This means they can't be interacted with, only acted upon. This reveals an interesting design choice on Apple's part: to minimize confusion by limiting how a user might interact with such potentially dense information on their wrist, such as a map.
Overall, it seems like Apple is playing it safe with this first round of development tools. Though there is certainly room for improvement and complexity for the Apple Watch in the future, I think Apple knows this is still a first-generation products. It's going to have its kinks. Think about the first iPad or the first iPhone. Neither of those products were the stunners they are today. Apple is starting with another clean slate with the Apple Watch. It might not be the most exciting product at first, but I highly doubt Apple will give up on this thing so easily.