The Success of Apple’s iWatch Will Depend on Apps, Apps, Apps

Since sometime around the 14th or 15th century, watches have told time. By the 17th century, they had made their way into men’s pockets, and onto the wrists of women everywhere. Springs, and hands, and quartz were all the rage. Until the advent of the digital electronic watch in 1970, that is. Everyone wanted a digital watch with a calculator, or one that kept up with the phases of the moon: No wonder we’ve all become obsessed with apps.


Apps, Apps, Apps


Timekeeper aficionados everywhere once defined a watch’s value by its materials, design, features, and brand. Since its official launch last week, tech bloggers and Apple iWatch watchers have been talking about all of that, and more: The more being, specifically, the apps.


Let’s face (Pun… intended.) it: What it looks like is important, what it costs, and how well it’s made, too. But what’s really going to make or break this new piece of hardware from the computing giant is its ability to support third-party mobile applications.


“All of Apple’s devices really come alive with third-party apps, and it’ll be the same with the watch,” said Jan Dawson, an independent technology analyst for Jackdaw Research.


A similar blank slate, but with more unique challenges


Apple released the iPhone in 2007 as nothing more than a fancy telephone. When the App Store opened a year later, the possibilities became endless. Suddenly, the iPhone could be used to make music, to control the television, and to play games. In order for the Apple Watch to gain traction with the consumer, the apps that serve this device must be just as versatile.


The apps must be just as versatile, but their development won’t be simple.


Whereas the iPhone and the iPad are standalone devices, the Apple Watch relies fully on the user’s iPhone for operation. As such, the brains of any, and all apps created for the Watch will live on the iPhone. (You may have heard: The iOS 8.2 software update includes the mandatory install of an Apple Watch app. This is why.)


What does this mean for app developers?


More work. Mobile application developers (like us) working on watch apps will first have to make an iPhone app, before expanding it to include support for the Watch. That, we know. But we still don’t yet know is if developers (again, us — and maybe you, too) can charge first for the iPhone app, and then again for the watch extension. We don’t know what features will have to be limited, and we don’t know how ads will be displayed.


Apple is in new territory here; they don’t know yet what a so-called killer app for the Watch will look like, and neither do we. But as mobile application developers in an ever-changing landscape of technology, we’re excited to find out.