We may never know how many Apple Watches Apple ends up selling, but one thing is clear: the apps need a lot of work.
The New York Times has a new story that perfectly sums up that sentiment. The story says some developers haven’t made apps for the Apple Watch yet because they’re not sure enough people own the device to make it worth the effort.
Even Facebook and Snapchat, which make two of the most popular mobile apps in the world, says they haven’t embraced the Apple Watch yet because they haven’t figured out how to make a useful app on the tiny screen.
That’s the right attitude, and one all developers should adopt before rushing to make apps for a new, unexplored platform like the Apple Watch.
The watch is fundamentally different than the iPhone or iPad. The best Apple Watch apps — and there are very few of them — adapt to the traditional way people use watches, meaning they give the user quick information at a glance. But many, if not most, Apple Watch apps try too hard to cram a smartphone app onto a tiny screen. Plus, third-party apps tend to run slowly because they’re powered by the iPhone, not the watch itself.
Oddly enough, Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, is one of the biggest offenders. It had an Apple Watch app ready to go when the device launched in April. But like so many other apps, it doesn’t adapt well to the tiny screen. It doesn’t make sense forcing users to squint at tiny photos on their wrist when they have a big-screen phone with them.
I’ve been using an Apple Watch for almost three months now, and I almost never use apps. For me, the watch is mostly useful for telling the time, viewing notifications (I love getting text messages and calendar alerts on my watch), and fitness tracking. I deleted almost all of the third-party apps from my device and will probably keep it that way until something great comes along.
Things could get better though. In the fall, Apple will release a new version of the Apple Watch operating system that will let developers store their apps directly on the device, which will, at least in theory, help them run faster.
But that only fixes half of the problem. Developers still need to come up with clever ways to make use of a smaller screen strapped to your wrist instead of mimicking what you already have on your iPhone. I’m guessing we’ll have to wait a lot longer before someone comes up with a truly innovative app for the Apple Watch.