iWatch This Space

13th February 2015

Way back in September, Apple announced that they would be developing their first wearable, the Apple Watch. With no release date the world was left on tenterhooks, wondering when we’d finally get our hands on the widely rumoured, much anticipated and incorrectly named “iWatch”.

Recently, Apple finally gave us an indication of when it will be released, with the Apple Watch due to come out in April of this year. It isn’t clear if April will be a worldwide release or if this initial date will be just for the US, but that hasn’t stopped us all getting excited! People are already speculating what Apple Watch apps will look like on the finished product…

Time on Your Hands

With the increased size of the latest line of iPhones, the Apple Watch will certainly make things easier, and will allow your 4.7 inch (or larger) phone to be stowed away while on the move. No more clumsy manoeuvres to try to reply to a message or make a call, you can handle that with just a tap on the wrist. The apps that are compatible with the Watch will define how useful it is, and may improve how we use other devices such as phones and tablets.

As it stands, we haven’t seen much in the way of Apple Watch specific apps. In terms of capabilities, the only thing we are certain of is that it will allow you to minimise your iPhone use to make certain tasks easier and more convenient. Take away the iPhone and the Watch may appear a little lacklustre. That said, we have still had a few glimpses of third party ideas and developer sneak peeks, as Todoist (currently a mobile app) showed TechCrunch a demo of their near-ready to-do list app for the Apple Watch…


Touchy Subject

ELEKS have also developed an Apple Watch app which can control the electric car, Tesla Model S. This has been no easy feat however, as ELEKS say:
“Briefly speaking, Apple Watch is simply an additional monitor to your iPhone and it can’t do anything by itself […] Apple Watch without an iPhone is actually nothing more than a useless toy”.

Although they have been promised, fully-fledged Apple Watch apps aren’t available yet, and developers must create “Extensions” within iPhone apps in order for the app to be compatible with the Watch. High expectations were set after Apple’s keynote in September, however these have not yet been matched by the beta developer WatchKit. The new WatchKit is due to be released in Spring 2015 along with the Apple Watch release. As it stands in beta, there are a number of features that aren’t open to developers. They are listed by ELEKS as follows:

  • The smart watch has an accelerometer and a gyroscope but when developing, there is no access to them.
  • There is Bluetooth which can only connect to your iPhone and is not available for developers.
  • Apple watch display is touch sensitive however, if you’re developing, only Force Touch (used to display the shortcut menu) is available to you.
  • The system of tactile notifications TapTic Engine is unavailable.
  • There is no access to the built-in speaker and microphone.
  • It has GPS, but only on your iPhone.

The Tesla app shows that, despite Apple Watch’s apparent limitations for developers, great apps can be designed and problems can be overcome. Perhaps Apple will take notice of developer concerns and open up even more of the technology in the interest of creating better apps.

car app

Wear Your Apps On Your Sleeve

Developers will always be interested in new technology, and no matter how uncharted the territory, will always try to develop the best, and most innovative software possible. Just look at how we played with Google Glass’ capabilities in our project with Autodesk’s BIM 360 Field software. While the Google Glass project may have been abandoned, “heads up displays” as wearables look set to continue. In one respect it may be a gamble to spend time on a product that may not last, but this sets a precedent and gives developers something to build on in the future.

It will be interesting to see how developers adapt to a more mainstream and commercial wearable device when Apple Watch is released. Interesting and innovative software will need to be created quickly to make the Apple Watch something special. Otherwise, the device could end up being nothing more than a glorified pedometer.