Apple Watch to Support Third-Party Apps

Apple revealed the Apple Watch on Tuesday, its answer to Google's Android Wear platform and devices. The good news for developers is that the Apple Watch will eventually support apps, though many of the specifics remain unknown.

The Apple Watch is squarish in shape, not circular as some had expected (or hoped). It comes in two sizes to accommodate different-sized wrists. The straps are customizable and it will be sold in three different editions. The device features a unique "crown" that owners twist in order to cycle through apps, or control zoom levels within apps. The screen features two different types of touch input. Apple pitched the device as a health and fitness companion. To that end, it is packed with sensors, including heart rate, acceleration, and gyroscopic motion. The Apple Watch will talk to health and fitness apps developed with Apple's HealthKit. The device also integrates Apple's Siri personal assistant, and allows nearby watches to send one another little scribbled notes. 

Apple completely reimagined the user interface for the device, and suggested that the notion of squashing a smartphone UI to fit would have been a bad idea. The device comes with a number of apps written by Apple, including messages, calendar, watch, stocks, weather, photos, music, alarms, and remotes for Apple TV, iTunes, and the iPhone's camera. Each app offers a feature called "glance" that Apple says is ideal for gleaning information quickly. 

The device goes on sale in early 2015 at a starting price of $349.

Now for the good news. Alongside the Apple Watch, the company announced a new set of tools called WatchKit. With WatchKit, developers will be able to easily create apps and services specifically for the Apple Watch. For example, WatchKit lets developers access the Glance feature, as well as apps that can transitionto the iPhone and back seamlessly. 

Speaking of the iPhone, Apple Watch requires the device to be nearby to access information from the cloud. It talks to the iPhone via Bluetooth, as it has no WiFi or GPS radios on board. This is perhaps one crutch. In comparison, Android Wear supports some offline functionality. 

With its high starting price point, the Apple Watch may be a hard sell to consumers. To be fair, Android Wear devices don't cost all that much less. The Moto 360, for example, costs $299 when purchased with a stainless steel band. It is probably fair to suggest that developers will have an equal opportunity to make a buck writing for the Apple Watch as they do for Android Wear. Stay tuned for details on when and where to download WatchKit. 

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

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