While the Apple Watch isn’t set to be released until Spring 2015, Apple recognizes the importance that apps have when it comes to the success of it’s products. So in an effort to provide developers with as much runway as possible, Apple released the WatchKit SDK to developers last week.
Before its release there was abundant speculation in regards to what languages would be supported by WatchKit. Would Apple require apps running on the watch to be built with their new programming language Swift? Or would the performance constraints necessitate using the lower level language Objective-C? As it turns out, neither—developers are still free to choose their language when developing with WatchKit, and Apple has provided sample code in both languages. This is a great sign that both languages are currently viewed as equals inside of Apple—capable of being used to write complex native applications that are both fast and efficient.
Version one of the WatchKit SDK is architected in a way that lays Apple’s biggest concern for the watch bare—it’s all about battery life. The first batch of Apple Watch applications from third party developers will come bundled with iPhone applications. The watch itself is responsible for very little of the computational heavy lifting, instead offloading that work to the iPhone by leveraging the connectivity functionality of iOS 8. Once the computation is done, the iPhone then sends the relevant information back to the watch so that it can update it’s user interface.
So there’s no Apple Watch section of the App Store …yet. Digging into the provided frameworks unearths that Apple Watch is built on iOS. It would seem it’s only a matter of time before we get fully native applications running on Apple Watch.
But even with a limited 1.0 release, exciting opportunities abound for Apple Watch. Show the gate attendant your boarding pass. Pay for groceries without putting down your kid. Skip that Squarespace ad in a podcast. Hey Siri, what’s that song? All without ever taking your phone out of your pocket. The obvious use cases that will shine are glanceable information and actionable notifications—but as the iPhone and the 1,000,000+ apps in the app store have shown us, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.