Building apps for Apple Watch: it’s not a phone

Many of the first wave of Apple Watch apps are poor - and one developer has articulated clearly why that is.

While I’m working on a long two week review of the Apple Watch, this piece by Marco Arment is worth noting, in which he explores how he completely redesigned the watch version of his Overcast podcast app. Why? Because once he actually had a Watch as was able to start using it, he found the experience terrible:

Every time the interface loads or changes, the Watch and iPhone communicate round-trip over Bluetooth. Whether due to wireless flakiness, 1.0 OS bugs, or (most likely) both, WatchKit is frustratingly unreliable. Apps or glances will sometimes just spin forever instead of loading, and even when everything’s working perfectly, apps still take so long to load and navigate that the watch’s screen often turns off before you’ve accomplished anything.

Remember, the vast majority of Watch apps available right now were written before the developer had access to the Watch. I’d expect many more developers will very rapidly rethink their apps.

Marco gives some useful advice for anyone building an app for the Watch:

Trying to match the structure of the iOS app was a mistake. For most types of apps, the Apple Watch today is best thought of not as a platform to port your app to, but a simple remote control or viewport into your iPhone app.

That might all change come June and Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference. But for now, Marco’s thoughts match my experience of using the Watch perfectly.