software development

Consumers Flock to the Apple Watch, But Many Developers Aren't Impressed

With Apple Watch pre-order sales reaching more than 1 million in the US in a single day and an estimated 2.3 million globally, it’s clear interest in the product is high.

If these estimates are accurate, the Apple Watch has already dominated the market. Approximately 720,000 Android Wear devices were sold last year and Pebble has sold more than one million devices since 2013.

The intrigue is immense given that the potential of smart watches, and the Apple Watch in particular, is still unclear. The possibilities of having a computer strapped to your wrist seem endless, but, at least when it comes to the Apple Watch, the immediate future doesn’t seem quite so bright.

After seven months programming with the platform’s Apple Watchkit, many developers are underwhelmed. Fast Company interviewed multiple developers working with the Watchkit and heard the same story: The first wave of Apple Watch apps will suck, and it’s Apple’s fault.

The developers polled in for the article explained that the Apple Watchkit's limitations are making it difficult for third parties to create functional, beautiful apps. These limitations are likely in place to conserve battery or maintain tight control on the user experience. Meanwhile, native apps look great by comparison because they aren’t subjected to the same constraints.

Part of the problem is that the Apple Watch doesn’t handle the code for it’s apps, but actually runs on your iPhone. If your phone is suddenly out of range of your watch, the apps won’t work. This connectivity creates problems with transitions from your phone to the watch and also means the two devices aren’t synched in real time.

There are plenty of other frustrations these developers have come across, like the inability to build apps using the touchscreen in the same way Apple’s sketching app does. Or that apps have to animate the full screen; partial screen animation isn’t an option.

Of course, another complaint is that the rules laid out in the Apple Watchkit don’t apply to everyone and that Apple is playing favorites. For example, Shazam can access the Apple Watch’s microphone while other apps cannot. Apple's own apps run on the Apple Watch, rather than running on the iPhone and being beamed to the Watch. This means the apps running natively on the Watch function more smoothly and appear more capable than third party apps. 

The future potential of the Apple Watch, and other smart watches, is endless. For now though, the experience of the Apple Watch is limited and developers aren’t impressed.

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