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Apple Watch, WatchKit, and false expectations

There's a blog post making the rounds about how useless Apple Watch is without an iPhone, how pessimistic its future is for developers, and how Apple hasn't delivered on what they "promised" at the event last September. In other words, it represents rage against a fantasy world very unlike the real one in which Apple very carefully set expectations at the event, on the product [preview pages, and in the developer resources that followed. From the elekslabs:

Although the opportunities seem pretty huge with Apple Watch, unfortunately, the current capabilities of the emulator-only development don't match the expectations set after the keynote. We can now confidently say that creating anything really necessary and fully functional for Apple Watch with the current SDK version is very, very difficult, and many of the things promised at launch that were perfect for some business ideas are not at all available yet. The only thing left for the developers is to wait for spring 2015 when a new version of WatchKit will be released and Apple Watch will finally start selling.

The Apple Watch has no cellular radio and no GPS. It relies completely on its connection to an iPhone to exchange and update data. Apple made that crystal clear from the start. First generation Apple Watch extensions require an iPhone the way first generation iPod touch web apps required a Wi-Fi router.

And extensions are all Apple "promised" for the first version of the Software Developers Kit (SDK) — interactive notifications (short and long looks), widgets (glances), and remote views (WatchKit "apps").

David Smith, as part of his excellent series on developing with WatchKit, had this to say:

Today Apple unveiled WatchKit. I am very pleasantly surprised by how capable it is. In my Expectations for WatchKit article I outlined that I thought we'd see a two phase roll-out of the platform. Starting with pretty limited capabilities that would then be expanded at next year's WWDC. It turns out that I was only half correct. It is two phase but the first phase is much more capable than I was expecting.

So, yeah, sorry you can't yet build a native Tesla app with full, unfettered access to the hardware. Or, you know, a native game or native video player or... native anything. Because Apple only "promised" native apps for later this year.

It's okay to want more faster. It's human nature. But misrepresenting reality to spread FUD about a product and its development potential isn't okay. It's bullshit and, worse, it overshadows any actual, interesting developer bits scattered throughout the article.

The Apple Watch ships this April.

Rene Ritchie
Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

22 Comments
  • The Apple blogosphere needs to take some responsibility. I heard podcasts and read posts bashing Android Wear for being a terminal to a phone and how Apple would never do something like that. Obviously not everyone had that sentiment but I heard/read it more than once. Bloggers/writers need to take responsibility for the hype they help spread.
  • I'd settle for fact-checking. You can not like Apple Watch, or the approach of Watch Kit. You can even bash it. But bash it for what it is. "Apple didn't deliver on its promise" isn't the same thing as "what Apple delivered isn't what I wanted."
  • Agreed.
  • Great point Rene. Sent from the iMore App
  • I have zero desire for an Apple Watch this time around - but I have every desire to pick up some stock when the market decides Apple did not sell enough of them on launch week.
  • Ha!
  • It's true that someone always has to bitch and moan, but the squeaky wheel gets the grease, as they say. Apple is pretty terrific at making sure the wheels don't squeak, and though they oil them in their own time, they usually hit the squeaky spot dead on. Sent from the iMore App
  • I agree with your view points. However, you made an article relying on anither article. When you do that, I ask that you link to it. You are making money off of someone else's work (partially). The least you can do is link to it which would also make life easier for your readers. Don't be biased and only link when it's something that you agree with.
  • It's not bias to not want to provide outbound link traffic to a garbage post. It's common sense. Rene gave you more than enough info in the lead paragraph to go find it yourself using a search engine, if you want to read it.
  • If you're going to write about it, provide a link. Simple really. If you don't want to provide traffic to said link then don't write about it. That said I agree with Rene. But it's apple's job to communicate expectations. I expect they will once again at their next event.
  • I added a link. I don't think he's malicious, just suffering from extreme expectational misalignment.
  • +1 Sent from the iMore App
  • I don't think that everything apple does will be selling like crazy and the watch is one of it! I am a person that love a watch but I keep my watch for years! If I buy a apple watch it will be good by maybe 2 years and than I have to upgrade! So think that's nothing for me stay with my Casio g-shock and keep it at least for 5 years! The problem with the apple watch it looks old after two years and to geeky! I still a believer man should wear a man watch and nothing plastic on the hand Sent from the iMore App
  • What you've always done is irrelevant. Apple will redefine that just as they did the smartphone experience. Apple is in this for the long haul. Besides there's no real measure for what is a flop and what isn't. I see this as an iPhone accessory for now. Another piece in the ecosystem. It remains to be seen if it can move beyond that status. I think it will eventually and through more iterations.
  • This blog post is BS. Sure the original post states these things. For what the original author was wanting to do out of the box it was an entirely valid view. However over and over he makes it apparent that it's in beta, can still be made to work, in fact he goes into details on how they were able to work around the limitations. Why not mention that? Sent from the iMore App
  • "Avengers sucked, no Superman like Marvel promised!" is not an okay frame for a movie review, no matter what comments on pacing and lightning might also be strewn within.
  • I'm going to be getting an Apple Watch myself, and I couldn't be more pleased with it's "limited" capabilities so far. If developers could, on day one, write powerful iPhone level apps for the thing and didn't need the phone, all that would happen is a billion stupid "watch games" would appear and no one really needs to be playing games on a watch. The battery life would be shite, the device would get a reputation as a trivial "tetris on the wrist" kind of thing, and no one with any sense, or any sense of style, would buy one. It's pretty obvious that the watch will get more powerful and more capable as time goes by but Apple would do better to, (and probably will), focus on getting GPS, WiFi, and a SIM slot, before focussing on making the thing play better games or serve as a playground for developers. Let's face it, in the tech world we treat developers like Gods, when in fact the great majority of the things these developers make are shallow, useless apps designed to fleece you of your cash. So if your some crybaby developer that can't see a way to steal my money for some third rate watch game ... I don't really care.
  • I was in a toilet cubicle and someone had written some very similar criticism. I immediately finished what I was doing, then entered the neighbouring cubcle, where I posted my rebuke.
  • Tesla is being ridiculous. I'll listen to their opinions on first gen products when you can drive their cars, go anywhere and not worry about running out of power. But that doesn't stop me from being excited about what they are doing or what the apple watch may become.
  • "I'll listen to their opinions on first gen products when you can drive their cars, go anywhere and not worry about running out of power." The infrastructure to ubiquitously refuel gas-powered automobiles didn't appear out of whole cloth the day the first cars hit the road, either. Just sayin'.
  • Where's the damn camera? This is another reason why I do not buy first generation devices. Junk.
  • CAMERA? Get real. It's a watch, not a cartoon. I have an iPhone because I got tired of buggy Android phones with lousy support that froze up when I was going back and forth between apps while taking care of patients. I got an iPhone 6 for Apple Pay. Similarly, I got a Pebble watch in late 2013 because it wasn't huge, and it allows me to look at texts and screen calls without taking my phone out when I am with patients, so I only have to answer critical calls like ICU or ER. The weather at a glance when my hands are full already, and having Star Trek or Disney watch faces is just frosting on the cake. I also like having a little calendar on a watchface, so I can do work notes for people. But it is starting to be a little wonky in it's function, unlike the original iPhone 4 we have that still works fine. If Apple can make a water resistant watch isn't huge and that allows me to do texts, weather, etc, and to do Apple Pay without even taking my phone out, then it will be awesome, and it will be on my wrist. Actual functions done elegantly, reliably, and durably is what Apple excels at. But if you want to get a watch that takes selfies, there is probably a Kickstarter out there for that. I'll take Apple for work.