Rahul Gilani | Manager, Platform Strategy
June 04, 2015

My First Month with the Apple Watch


Do you remember how new and exciting certain things were in 2008? Things we all take for granted these days. It’s sometimes difficult to realize how much the world of mobile apps has evolved in such a short time frame. Apple unveiled its App Store in July of 2008 and apps took off. There are more than 1 million available apps in both Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store. Over the past few years these apps have become increasingly user-friendly, polished and sophisticated. Developers have been given the tools necessary to build out their visions and share them with the millions of smartphone users across the globe through healthy ecosystems that rely on APIs. These consist of both device OS APIs and value-driven third-party APIs that provide the necessary data to various components of different types of apps. Google is hoping to replicate this success with Android Wear as is Apple with its new Apple Watch and respective WatchKit framework.

I was lucky enough to receive my 42mm sport Apple Watch on launch day and have been using it daily. Like many Apple Watch users, I feel rather underwhelmed with the availability, capability and polish experienced in the first batch of apps but I guess, to some extent that is to be expected. This presents an interesting challenge in app development – though many of the developers releasing apps for the Apple Watch were probably experienced in creating iOS apps, without having an actual device for user-interface and user-experience testing the level of sophistication and usability (or lack thereof) creating enjoyable experiences clearly became problematic.

Take for example the Fandango app I downloaded. Upon launching the app I get a screenshot of a random movie and a film quote. That is it. There are no additional options or functional capabilities. I’m guessing this app is just to make it somewhat more convenient when one needs to present an associated QR code for entry into a movie theater a la Passbook. I haven’t had an opportunity to test that but it seems to be a logical assumption. Otherwise, why have the app? I can’t even search for local theaters or upcoming times at my favorite theater (which is saved on my Fandango profile). It seems like a fairly big missed opportunity. Until the next version is released I will probably not open this app again.

Developers may have a vision or goal for their app in mind. They rely on APIs, SDKs and their experience on overall app development but when there is a new interface and platform, things change. This results in many of the initial apps being completely watered down versions of their iPhone counterpart often devoid of any useful functionality.

We must give the benefit of the doubt to these app developers though. The Apple Watch is not an automatic extension of iOS in general. The overall behavior of its use is different from a smartphone or tablet’s use and experience.  What a user determines is useful, helpful or fun will help dictate the quality and releases of these wrist-specific apps.

App developers need APIs to rapidly extend brands and different sets of data to new platforms, devices and screens. While API providers can benefit by providing these APIs and sets of data, it’s still up to the developer to fully utilize the user-interface and user-experience to make an app that will keep a user coming back to it. So, while my Apple Watch may just be a glorified beeper and fitness tracker for now, it’s still exciting to see this new platform evolve right before my eyes. I’m sure we’ll see even more Watch apps being released with more polish and more focus on a good and useful experience as more user feedback is attained and more developers actually get their hands on the hardware to truly understand all its potential.

With WWDC coming up next week, Apple is slated to unveil the necessary framework and APIs for native Apple Watch apps. Perhaps we will also start to see native apps that don’t necessarily rely on being tethered to an iPhone for all the required functionality. As the number of Apple Watch customers and apps increase, we may eventually come across that “killer app” that elevates the wearable to a must-have product instead of a nice-to-have accessory.