Apple on Tuesday released WatchKit, the set of tools developers need to begin coding apps for Apple's smartwatch. The Apple Watch is not expected to go on sale until early 2015, but Apple wants to have plenty of apps ready to go when it arrives.
WatchKit is packaged into the iOS 8.2 SDK, which developers can snag directly from Apple. Apple did not outline any specific APIs within the SDK, but we did learn a few important details about how the Apple Watch will work.
To start, the Apple Watch won't support native apps at launch — though it will eventually. The first wave of Apple Watch-compatible apps will actually need to run on a nearby iPhone. Hopefully this will work in a fashion similar to Google's Android Wear. Though Android Wear devices can run native apps, most are piggybacking on smartphone-based apps. It's fairly easy for developers to enable their Android apps to work with Android Wear. We can only hope the process is similarly painless with WatchKit. "A Watch app complements your iOS app; it does not replace it," said Apple. The vendor said support for native Watch apps will arrive sometime later in 2015.
We also learned a bit about the two wearables Apple is preparing to sell. Remember, two Apple Watches are in development, a small one and a large one. According to the WatchKit documentation, one has a 38-millimeter band with a screen measuring 272 by 340 pixels, and the other has a 42-millimeter band and a screen measuring 312 by 390 pixels They both have a screen ratio of 4-to-5. More sizes could be in the Apple Watch's future, too, according to Apple.
Developers will be able to create two different notifications. There's something called a Short Look, which is an alert that pops up when users briefly raise their wrists, and something called the Look Look, which shows up if users hold their wrists up. The first delivers only the briefest nugget of information, while the second provides more information and can be customized.
Developers can also create Glances. Glances are for a quick view of info generated by any given app, such as the weather. Glances are static and must fully fit the screen — in other words, no scrolling up or down to see more. Developers won't be able to create their own custom gestures for interacting with the watch. Instead, they'll be beholden to Apple's gestures.
One other nugget worth mention is support for photos and videos within Apple Watch apps. Apps can include photos, but not videos or GIFs. This will no doubt disappoint at least one developer somewhere.
With WatchKit now available, it's time to get to work on those Apple Watch apps. Apple said it will provide more details about submitting apps closer to launch.