I was aware that the Apple Watch was only providing limited functionality to third-party developers at the moment, but I wasn’t quite aware just how limited it was until this week.
There is a great article at FastCompany titled Why The First App Watch Apps Will Suck which goes into detail about the limitations which developers are facing, namely:
- Applications actually run entirely on your iPhone and send full-screen images over Bluetooth to the watch. That leads to laggy display, difficulty in providing smooth animations and the potential for out-of-sync issues for information displayed on the watch versus the phone. Turn your phone off and third-party applications will die, even if what they are doing should not need ongoing Internet connectivity, because even basic rendering is happening on your phone.
- Exceedingly limited touch-screen functionality. Essentially you can get taps and swipes. That’s it. No drags or other common gestures. Use of the digital crown might be better, but obvious UX approaches might not be possible.
- Second-class citizen status for most third-party applications. Apple’s own applications are running on the watch and have access to everything. Some privileged applications have been granted additional access to the device (ie. Shazam has microphone access).
- Custom watch-faces applications (the most common smartwatch category for Tizen and Android Wear devices) are not allowed or possible on Apple Watch.
In combination, these constraints are likely to make the initial third-party Apple Watch applications clunky, boring and limited in comparison to what should be possible on such a device, and what is already possible with the Samsung Gear S, where full-screen applications with access to all the sensors and other hardware features, running code on device, with untethered Internet access via Wifi or 3G is already available.
Of course, I’m sure that it will still sell like hotcakes, and in the process bring wearables to the mass consciousness, which will benefit the whole sector.