Apple announced the release of WatchKit on Tuesday, the set of APIs that allows developers to make apps for Apple Watch. WatchKit is being included with the iOS 8.2 beta SDK, which was also released on Tuesday.
Developers don't actually have an Apple Watch to use in development, at least most of them don't. According to Apple, "the WatchKit site includes programming guides, human interface guidelines, templates and more." But developers won't be able to, "create fully native apps for Apple Watch" until "later next year." Apple Watch itself is scheduled for a launch in "early 2015."
Interestingly, Apple released quite a long press release (embedded in full below) for WatchKit, a press release that includes fluff quotes from a top Apple executive and third party developers. Phil Schiller, Apple senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing; John Kosner, executive vice president of Digital and Print Media at ESPN; Kevin Systrom, co-founder and CEO of Instagram; and John Gustafson, American Airlines vice president of Digital all got fluff time.
In fact, the announcement is making a full court press to convince developers they should be making Apple Watch apps because all the cool kids are doing it. Apple breathlessly gushed that, "Developers who have previewed the WatchKit tools and APIs are eager to start building on the personal and immediate experiences Apple Watch will offer users."
That's a lot of flash for the release of a beta version of an SDK that doesn't yet have full functionality (no native app development until "later next year"). Apple is either super stoked about WatchKit—I know I am—or worried about getting developers on board. I assume it's the former, but this press release had a weird rhythm to it that seemed out of place. Think overcompensating. The question is, why?
Apple's press release in full:
Apple® today announced the availability of WatchKit, software that gives developers a set of tools to easily create experiences designed specifically for Apple Watch™—Apple’s most personal device ever. Apple has the world’s most vibrant and innovative developer community, and now these developers can begin developing WatchKit apps before Apple Watch becomes available. Developers can create innovative WatchKit apps, actionable notifications and Glances, for timely information accessible by an easy, quick look at Apple Watch.
“Apple Watch is our most personal device ever, and WatchKit provides the incredible iOS developer community with the tools they need to create exciting new experiences right on your wrist,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “With the iOS 8.2 beta SDK, developers can now start using WatchKit to create breakthrough new apps, Glances and actionable notifications designed for the innovative Apple Watch interface and work with new technologies such as Force Touch, Digital Crown and Taptic Engine.”
Developers can create notifications that allow users to take action or respond right from their wrist such as turning the lights off after they've left the house, quickly accessing flight details at the airport, and rerouting their transit when a train or bus is late. Developers can incorporate Glances, which quickly show users information they care about most, such as the latest news and sports scores, alarm system status or the next step of a favorite recipe.
Developers who have previewed the WatchKit tools and APIs are eager to start building on the personal and immediate experiences Apple Watch will offer users.*
“Fans crave real-time and personal information, and the ESPN app for Apple Watch gives us the ability to deliver live scores and information for their favorite teams,” said John Kosner, executive vice president of Digital and Print Media, ESPN. “Glances provide fans with a snapshot of live games, and if there is no game taking place, they’ll get valuable game-time information or the final box score. With actionable notifications, the experience becomes even more personal, as fans receive alerts on score changes, news and more.”
“Apple Watch allows us to make the Instagram experience even more intimate and in the moment,” says Kevin Systrom, co-founder and CEO of Instagram. “With actionable notifications you can see and instantly like a photo or react with an emoji. The Instagram news and watch list allows you to see your friends’ latest photos, follow new accounts and get a real-time view of your likes and comments.”
“The American Airlines app on Apple Watch reminds you when it’s time to head to the airport via pre-trip notifications, and provides updates for gate changes, connecting gate info upon arrival, and will notify you when boarding begins if you’re not at the gate yet,” said John Gustafson, American Airlines vice president of Digital. “Travelers can also ask ‘Where am I?’ in-flight and get real-time location information at 30,000 ft.”
The iOS 8.2 SDK beta including WatchKit is available immediately for iOS Developer Program members at developer.apple.com/watchkit
. The WatchKit site includes programming guides, human interface guidelines, templates and more. Starting later next year, developers will be able to create fully native apps for Apple Watch.
* App features are subject to change and may not be available in all regions or all languages. Apple Watch requires iPhone 5 or later.