While the Apple Watch is expected to launch within the first part of 2015, developers need time to get apps ready for the smart wearable.
On Tuesday, November 18, Apple officially opened the floodgates for developers, by releasing the official WatchKit development tools to allow third-party app makers the means to create apps for the upcoming Watch. According to Apple’s marketing chief, Phil Schiller, this new development kit is meant to help developers create experiences for the wrist:
“WatchKit provides the incredible iOS developer community with the tools they need to create exciting new experiences right on your wrist.“
With the WatchKit SDK, developers will be able to bring the Watch’s features to life for their applications, including the ability to control, launch and otherwise manipulate full apps on the user’s connected iPhone. Moreover, with Glances, developers can give users a quick read-only bit of information to let them see what they need, when they need it. And, with Actionable Notifications, users can interact with an app directly.
“Fans crave real-time and personal information, and the ESPN app for Apple Watch gives us the ability to deliver live scores and information for their favorite teams,” said John Kosner, executive vice president of Digital and Print Media, ESPN. “Glances provide fans with a snapshot of live games, and if there is no game taking place, they’ll get valuable game-time information or the final box score. With actionable notifications, the experience becomes even more personal, as fans receive alerts on score changes, news and more.“
Breaking it down a bit more, Glances are a template-based notification, and are not actionable in any real capacity by the user. However, Glances can link directly to the parent application on the iPhone. For instance, a Glance can show the weather of an app, but if the user wants to learn anything more, they’ll need to activate the full weather app on their iPhone. This is handled in part by the Handoff API, which links the Watch app to the relevant area of the iPhone app.
Finally, Actionable Notifications are areas that cannot be customized, insofar that they are simply the same notifications that users currently see on their iPhones now. Developers can, though, include a customized image or graphics to accompany the incoming notification.
It should also be worth noting that the WatchKit SDK identifies that full-on Watch apps, ones that are native to the wearable, won’t be available until the end of 2015.
The WatchKit availability comes months ahead of the launch of Apple Watch, which makes sense for Apple to get out ahead of the device’s launch, considering the specifications are finalized. Now, with any hope, the Apple Watch should launch with a plethora of apps available right out of the gate.