Apple's watchOS 2 is nearly upon us, and the promise of native Apple Watch apps that run independently of an iPhone has got everyone excited.
The thing is that Apple hobbled its own OS originally, so apps could only run as extensions of iPhones ones, and couldn't access any of the sensor hardware. That made for some pretty weak sauce.
Essential reading: Apple Watch 2 – what to expect
But now that's all fixed. And we're so excited for the potential of watchOS 2 here at Wareable that we scoured the globe for developers to tell us about their apps and explain why the power of watchOS 2 has helped them create new experiences.
Read on for the inside track...
K.O.M.R.A.D. is a psychological conversation-based adventure game designed to be played on Apple Watch. You receive a text message from an unknown number, and quickly find yourself attempting to hack into a Cold War-era Russian computer AI, untouched since the 1980s. The snag: it has no idea the Cold War's over. If you can make the AI your ally, great; if not, the fallout could be nuclear.
Designer Brad Becker says the team began work on the original Apple Watch OS, but realised watchOS 2 would enable a superior experience for players: “You get better performance, and the Apple Watch can stay on for 70 seconds, which is the length of conversation burst we're targeting. There's also the use of the Taptic engine for sound/vibration feedback, the ability to play audio, and advancements in animation and layout. This all adds up to a tangible improvement!"
Just Press Record
This simple, professional audio recorder syncs recordings across devices using iCloud — and now, for the first time, supports Apple Watch. “Before, developers did not have access to the sensors or microphone — a clear hindrance to an audio recording app," explains designer and developer Gordon Murrison. “But with that functionality and apps running natively, Just Press Record can be a reality on Apple Watch." He says the product is ideal for Apple's wearable, because “whenever you want to record an idea, your mic is right there on your wrist — it doesn't matter where your iPhone is".
On the surface, the Apple Watch's best calculator looks much the same after its latest update. But look closely and you'll see improvements, such as the tip feature using the Digital Crown to quickly change values. This is a “nicer interaction", says developer James Thomson, who adds it frees up space to display more information.
For Thomson, though, the big wins in watchOS 2 are speed and responsiveness: “Now PCalc lives entirely on Apple Watch, it doesn't have to communicate with an iPhone every time a button is pressed." With a calculator, that's very important, because there's now no lag between entering digits.
Thomson adds watchOS 2 is “still WatchKit, though, rather than giving full access to the underlying UIKit," and “won't magically make it easier to interact with a tiny screen". So he sees watchOS 2 often being about removing niggles rather than being hugely transformative.
Notes for Watch
This note-taking app was already available for Apple Watch, but restricted by the limitations of the OS. “In watchOS 2, the app can now store notes offline on Apple Watch, so you can, for example, go to the gym with your workout plan and not need your iPhone as well," says developer Patrick Balestra. The new version of Notes for Watch will also include a complication and improved glance view, providing faster access to important notes.
With watchOS 2, Chord Cheats takes advantage of Apple Watch now enabling apps to play audio files. “The original app allowed guitarists to have a 144-chord library on their wrist," explains developer (and also professor of music composition) Álvaro Maroto Conde. “Now, it's been rewritten from scratch, in order to generate the sound of these chords."
The app adds a tone generator for tuning, and a full-featured metronome, too; all this is achieved through runtime audio generation, which the developer explains is a “very powerful approach" far superior to bundling thousands of weighty audio files.
Mobile payment system Yoyo Wallet adds value to mobile payments through the automatic collection of rewards, and trackable expenditure. Mobile Engineer Tom Hutchinson says the first round of Apple Watch apps were “plagued by frustratingly long load times — and we were no exception". By contrast, watchOS 2 has “cut launch times in half, and brought a huge boost to speed and fluidity through our app".
Hutchinson believes Apple Watch is still in its infancy, with developers learning what works, what doesn't, and “how to make the most of a platform on your wrist". But he believes watchOS 2 is a step in the right direction, and that “if the relentless pace of iOS is anything to go by, watchOS will be in for an exciting few years".
Maximilian Litteral explains that his upcoming Television Time app is designed to display upcoming TV shows you want to see, and episodes you've missed. “One of the big features is the third-party complication. This is new to watchOS 2 and works on the modular and utility watch faces," he says, adding that having access to such data right on the watch face is “incredible".
The complication is smart, too: “It displays the next episode to air. With a single show, you get its name, time and network. If several shows air simultaneously, the complication displays the time, number of shows and two show names. And you can even use Time Travel, rotating the Digital Crown to find out what's on later!"
What's your favourite Apple Watch app? Let us know on the Wareable forum.
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