I’ve had the opportunity to try quite a few Apple Watch apps on the Apple Watch and several of them not only impressed me — they delighted me.
I’m not deluding myself. There will be times when they’re slow or fail to update, when they don’t work the way I expect them to, or when I’m forced to work around them instead of with them. That still happens with phone, tablet, and computer software sometimes, of course, but I’m expecting it to happen more with the Apple Watch because it’s so new. Because we’re all — Apple, developers, and customers — going to need to learn what it really is and what it means.
Native apps will come, maybe extended or third-party watch faces, maybe with other things we’ve only begun to discuss. And one day the Apple Watch will go iPhone-free the way the iPhone went PC-free with iOS 5. (Yes, it took five years.)
For now, the apps that are on the Apple Watch – specifically 3rd party apps – are not client apps in the traditional sense. Where as the apps you have on your iPhone and iPad are developed specifically for that device, there are not currently any native Apple Watch apps. The 3rd party apps that are being discussed, shown and advertised are projections of the app from their iPhone counterpart. Developers have been given access to WatchKit – a framework from Apple that allows developers to code their iPhone apps so they can have a working extension of their app on the Apple’s newest device. There are going to be some limitations in current versions of Apple Watch apps but when Apple release an SDK for native Watch apps later this year, then Watch apps will then have the potential to be more powerful and delightful.
Apple is launching their watch conservatively, limiting the capabilities of the hardware for any number of reasons we can only speculate about—including battery life, software stability, or even their desire to train users and developers in best UX practices before enabling more options.
But the Apple Watch that will ship on day one won’t be the Apple Watch of fanboy mythos. It’s a severely limited piece of technology with UI that will feel dated. And there’s nothing that the world of developers can do to improve the platform or create some paradigm shift until Apple lets them.
With Apple announcing the date for this year’s upcoming annual WWDC conference, news of this native SDK for Apple Watch could well be announced then.