In yesterday’s post Will Apple Watch Grow Closer To Us Than Our iPhones, I explored how the Apple Watch may build an even stronger bond with us than our iPhones have today. We shouldn’t be flipping back and forth between our iPhone and watch just to get the benefits of what the Apple Watch has to offer.
What in fact is really true is Apple Watch will make us rely even more on our iPhones. Much of what Apple Watch does can’t happen without the iPhone nearby. But what’s going on behind the scenes?
Apple Watch is really an extended window into functionality provided by iOS apps running on our iPhones, particularly 3rd-party Apple Watch “apps”. Aside from features Apple built into Apple Watch (the most basic of which is telling us the time via various watch faces), what you are seeing on the Apple Watch screen is actually a user interface extension of an app running on your iPhone.
Apple Watch applications are comprised of two components: WatchKit app is the portion installed on the watch containing resources (images and things called storyboards) displayed on Apple Watch, and the WatchKit extension, a component within the iOS app running on your iPhone containing programming logic for managing the watch user interface, responding to user input on Apple Watch, and keeping the content WatchKit app displays up to date.
Does that mean all the “brains” of an Apple Watch app are really happening on the iPhone? Not necessarily. While the iPhone portion (Watchkit extension) is the behind the scenes worker bee gathering up content and interacting with HealthKit and other information sources, Apple Watch is brilliantly smart about how we interact with that information. Here’s what I mean.
Apple Watch knows from your movements when to wake up the display and show you information on Apple Watch, such as your run distance, heart rate, meeting information or the current time. This is something called a glance interface. It also helps us interface with and manage notifications, coming both from Apple Watch itself as well as notices originating on the iPhone (meetings, messages, incoming calls, etc.) Interacting with some of these notices actually launches the 3rd-party Watchkit app or other features built in locally to Apple Watch.
While iOS developers care a lot about how all this works, you as an end user don’t. We go on blissfully using Apple Watch unaware of everything your iPhone is doing in support of Apple Watch. I like to think of it as, your iPhone helps make your Apple Watch cool.
Now does it make sense? Hopefully you can see that what Apple Watch really does is tie us closer to our iPhones, but without picking up or interacting with the iPhone. We interact with our iPhones through Apple Watch.
Monday’s Apple “Spring Forward” announcement was chalked full of new Apple product information about Apple Watch, New MacBook, Apple TV + HBO Now, and Mac line up updates. In addition to a long list of design inspirations and new capabilities, a few other things jumped out for me during the announcements.
The day started with Tim Cook telling us about the 700 million iPhone unit sales and how iPhone has become so much a part of our daily lives. The iPhone (you could say all smartphones) are never farther than arms’ reach. Interesting then later when Apple showed Apple Watch was designed so we don’t have to reach for our iPhone.
Most things Apple Watch does, the biggest exception is loading apps from the App Store, is performed on the Apple Watch. When you use your Apple Watch, you don’t have to flip between your phone and watch devices to access fitness info, answer calls, check the weather or your calendar, see and respond to messages, or get help from Siri. Those things you can do right from the Apple Watch.
The added wi-fi plus bluetooth in Apple Watch means your iPhone can be in another part of the house and you can go right on using your Apple Watch, not tethered via a short Bluetooth leash like other Smartwatches. Similar to iPhone becoming even more important in customers’ lives than the iPod (because it’s built into the iPhone), Apple is attempting to make the bond with Apple Watch even stronger than with our iPhones.
Will Apple succeed? For some of the watch wearing faithful (and those who return to wearing a watch to be able to sport the Apple Watch) that answer could very well be yes. Apple does many things well and is one of the best at creating a tightly integrated user experience for their customers. The less time customers spend jumping back and forth between devices to use capabilities unavailable on their Smartwatches, synchronizing data or adjusting settings to get things working, the less intrusive and the more useful the experience is for Apple Watch customers.
Two things that could stand in Apple Watch’s way. Price and battery life. The $349 entry price is high but seems reasonable for something almost as advanced as our Smartphones, but the price rises quickly as you move up the line of chassis and wristband options. A stainless steel watch chassis and linked band runs $949 to $999 for example. 18 hour battery life means Apple Watch’s short tether is to a charging cable. Apple Watch won’t be of much use unless it is tucked in for a fresh charge every night.
Will Apple Watch move Smartwatches from tech novelties into the mainstream like iPhones and other Smartphones are today? Only time will tell.