Apple Watch OS 2.0 is All About Third-Party Apps

watchOS-2

Apple showed off Apple Watch OS 2.0, chock full of new powers for developers to put to use in creating compelling and sticky wearable apps.

"It's an amazing time to be a developer," said Apple's Phil Schiller in a video during Monday's WWDC 2015 keynote, "and we're really just at the beginning of all this." 

Mobile apps have been around as long as we've had cell phones, but Apple kicked off the modern mobile app era in 2008 with the launch of the App Store. Since then, says Apple, it has paid developers $30 billion on the 100 billion apps that have been downloaded from the App Store.

In addition to writing apps for Apple's desktop platform and smartphone/tablet platform, developers can now also target Apple's wearable platform. Apple WatchOS 2.0 is a significant leap forward -- especially considering Apple debuted the product just six weeks ago. The updated platform is about refinement and adding tools for developers. Here's a short list of the new things developers will be able to do.

To start, developers will have much broader access to the Watch hardware. That includes the Digital Crown, Taptic Engine, heart rate sensor accelerometer, and microphone. New APIs will, for example, enable audio and video playback and animations thanks to these new hardware tools. Moreover, with the ClockKit framework, developers will be able to generate "complications" directly on the watch face with their data.

Apple says HomeKit integration will let people dim their lights and tweak the temperature of their thermostat using the Digital Crown. Vine, WeChat and other apps will be able to permit audio messaging and video playback, and so on. 

Apps will be able to function independently from an iPhone. In other words, WatchOS 2.0 will support fully native apps that run both the logic and the user interface on the wearable. 

Apple added a feature called Time Travel, which lets users scroll forward and backward in their calendar (presented on the watch face as complications) using the Digital Crown, or see other data surfaced by third-party apps thanks to new developer hooks. 

Other key features include a new Nightstand Mode that transforms the watch into a bedside alarm clock; the ability to use store-issued credit cards via Apple Pay; support for public transit within Apple Maps; addition of third-party apps to daily exercise counts; using Siri to record specific workouts; and, importantly, an Activation Lock that prevents unauthorized people from wiping or activating a stolen watch.

The iOS 9 SDK beta including WatchKit for WatchOS 2 is available immediately for iOS Developer Program members at developer.apple.com/watchkit. WatchOS 2 will be available this fall as a free update to Apple Watch.
 

Eric Zeman I am a journalist who covers the mobile telecommunications industry. I freelance for ProgrammableWeb and other online properties.

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