After attempting to build an app for the Apple Watch that could control some features on a Tesla Model S, Eleks Labs has heaped some unfavorable criticism upon the watch's programmability. Though the watch itself isn't due to ship until April, a beta version of the Apple Watch SDK known as the WatchKit is currently available so developers can get a head start. Meanwhile, there are no official APIs for gaining programmatic access to vehicles from Tesla. However there is an unofficial API for the Tesla Model S that was developed by Tim Dorr after he sniffed the traffic of Tesla's Android app for monitoring the battery charging progress on a Model S.
To build the app, Eleks Labs mocked up a version of the Tesla API that was based on Dorr's unofficial API. For testing purposes, the mocked version of the API did not require authentication as the subsequent application that relied on that API was a prototype.
According to the report from Eleks Labs, its attempt to build the watch app revealed that developers would have no access to an Apple Watch's accelerometer, gyroscope, Bluetooth radio (reserved for communication with an iPhone), TapTic engine, speaker, or microphone. In a heavily derisive note, the report from Eleks Labs also says "As we can see now, Apple Watch without an iPhone is actually nothing more than a useless toy." That criticism centers on the Apple Watch's architecture whereby it relies on a host iPhone as a conduit for most of its functionality. Apple is not alone in choosing this architecture. The same architectural choice exists in the relationship between watches based on Android Wear and an Android-based smartphone.
These proxy-based architectures underscore the commitment that end-users must make as they begin to consider their personal wearables strategies. For example, if you want an Apple Watch, you will need to own an iPhone. If you want an Android Wear-based Watch, you will need an Android-based smartphone. From those commitments rolls a waterfall of other lock-ins. For example, users of Android-based smartphones will not have access to iTunes and may therefore want to centralize their digital content using Google Play.
The report from Eleks is also careful to point out that it's observations are not the final word because of how the Apple Watch SDK is still in beta. By the time a 1.0 version of the SDK ships, Apple could open up access to one or more of the Watch features that are currently closed off to developers. In summary (after the report showed what they were able to accomplish, even with the limitations), Eleks Labs said:
Although the opportunities seem pretty huge with Apple Watch, unfortunately, the current capabilities of the emulator-only development don’t match the expectations set after the keynote. We can now confidently say that creating anything really necessary and fully functional for Apple Watch with the current SDK version is very, very difficult, and many of the things promised at launch that were perfect for some business ideas are not at all available yet. The only thing left for the developers is to wait for spring 2015 when a new version of WatchKit will be released and Apple Watch will finally start selling."