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.