Apple Watch apps will become much quicker in coming months, thanks to developer tools that allow native apps to run on the Watch itself, Apple announced today at its WWDC conference in San Francisco, California. The company also announced new Watch faces, direct Wi-Fi connection to trusted networks, and a new Nightstand mode.
“This is how we felt when we launched the app store,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said, referring to the updates for WatchOS.
The new WatchOS will most notably provide an overhaul of the SDK (software development kit), letting developers take far more control of Watch features, like its microphone and Activity app. Developers will also be able to create apps that run natively on the Watch, speeding up load times for local information like pictures and calendar information. Tech chatter has noted that there hasn’t really been a killer app for the Watch yet, although that might change now that developers have far greater control over their software.
A mainstay of the Watch, fitness apps, will now be able to run natively instead of relying on the iPhone, and third-party fitness apps can count for Watch users’ (addictive) daily activity rings.
Watch users will appreciate new Watch faces joining the current lineup: a photo watch face, a photo album watch face, and a set of time lapse photos taken by Apple in major cities around the world. The photo watch face will let users display a single photo, while the album face will cycle through a selected album of photos each time the watch screen is activated. The new time lapse watch face will show a short, pre-photographed loop from a time lapse of a major city of your choosing, loosely based on the current time. Developers will also now be allowed to create their own complications for their apps, the small widgets displayed on watch faces.
Apple minimized one of the device’s weaknesses, needing to charge every night, by adding a Nightstand feature that displays the time and utilizes the Watch’s physical buttons to stop alarms and act as a snooze button.
And in tandem with improving Apple Maps, the Maps Watch app will have upgraded turn-by-turn directions and public transportation information. Users will also be able to add different set of Friends wheels, the Watch shortcut for selecting contacts.
There was also a brief mention during the WWDC keynote of the Watch using trusted Wi-Fi networks to directly transfer data on native apps.
Before now, a majority of Watch apps processed data on the user’s iPhone, which was then sent over Bluetooth to display on the Watch.
Initial reviews of the Watch found that third-party apps were slow to load, but Apple hopes to rectify that criticism with this native SDK.
The Apple Watch, released to the public April 24, sold an estimated 957,000 units in preorder, according to Slice Intelligence, an e-retail analysis firm.