Apple connects devs with iOS 8.2 beta and WatchKit tools, details of Watch apps arrive

There’s a new iOS beta out for devs this afternoon, only this time around the interesting stuff doesn’t really involve new features for the iPhone or iPad, but for Apple’s burgeoning wearable platform, the Apple Watch. With the release of the WatchKit framework today, Apple is giving devs the tools they need to start crafting the software that users will first interact with when the smartwatch goes up for sale early next year. And in doing so, Apple’s offered the rest of us a little insight into the types of app experiences we can expect.

Well, at least some of this falls into “app” territory, as there are three very different types of interaction iOS software can deliver for the Apple Watch: WatchKit apps, Glances, and actionable notifications.

Let’s start at the end there, with the most limited incarnation, and work back: actionable notifications. These are little more than the sort of notifications you’d see on an iOS phone or tablet, delivered to Watch. Devs can add additional graphics, but there’s not a lot of wiggle room for making anything that stands out.

apple watch digital crownGlances, too, are quite limited in what they let devs get away with. These are screens for Watch that are based on Apple-defined templates, and are connected to parent apps on a linked iOS device. They’re designed to display data in a convenient format, but don’t offer anything in the way of interactivity.

WatchKit apps have the most potential of these three, but they’re not without their own restrictions. The apps must be designed to follow specific screen layouts and methods of interaction, ensuring a consistent experience across apps. And while they’ll offer users a much richer experience than Glances or actionable notifications, the Watch itself isn’t doing much work – the bulk of processing occurs on the connected iPhone, and even animations are pre-rendered before being sent to Watch for display.

Maybe the most promising thing there isn’t what’s possible with the WatchKit framework today, but what will come in the future: WatchKit apps that really do run right on the Watch, independent from all that processing on the phone. Look for Apple to open the door for such software later in 2015.

Source: 9to5 Mac

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Stephen Schenck
Stephen has been writing about electronics since 2008, which only serves to frustrate him that he waited so long to combine his love of gadgets and his degree in writing. In his spare time, he collects console and arcade game hardware, is a motorcycle enthusiast, and enjoys trapping blue crabs. Stephen's first mobile device was a 624 MHz Dell Axim X30, which he's convinced is still a viable platform. Stephen longs for a market where phones are sold independently of service, and bandwidth is cheap and plentiful; he's not holding his breath. In the meantime, he devours smartphone news and tries to sort out the juicy bits Read more about Stephen Schenck!