Apple Limits Apple Watch Developers With Primitive Tools

photo by Todd Quackenbush


Apparently in an effort to keep the Apple Watch from giving an initial bad impression, with things such as poor battery life, Apple has severely limited what app developers can do with the Apple Watch. Apple has gone to great lengths to develop demo apps that have features not allowed to third party developers, such as running code natively on the watch, whereas developers are only allowed to write code for the phone. This means that Apple’s own apps can run more fluidly and take advantage of more versatile display graphics. So once again Apple’s marketing engine is more functional than it’s products. The demo apps were intentionally designed to make the watch appear far more capable and advanced than it really is, or would be practical considering the poor battery life.

Frustrated and disillusioned developers have learned over the last six months just how restricted they are with the Apple WatchKit software development kit, which will severely limit the functionality and originality of the first Apple Watch apps.

According to an investigation by Mark Wilson Fast Company, The First Apple Watch Apps Will Suck (sic)

The biggest complaint that I heard again and again–and the issue which many problems stem from–is the fact that the Apple Watch doesn’t actually handle the code for its own apps. Apple Watch apps actually run on a connected iPhone, then beam relevant information–words, images, etc–to the watch to display.

That means the watch isn’t doing some very basic things which normally help to make user experience great. For instance, if your watch goes out of the range of your phone, third-party apps will just die. But an even bigger complaint is that there’s no way for developers to render nice, dynamic transitions within their apps–those animations that seamlessly react to your touch and blend text and graphics movements in every modern app you know. And the watch SDK itself isn’t filling that gap with turnkey, pre-programmed solutions.

“We’re missing a core basic thing . . . simple transitions,” explains Anton Doudarev, developer at UsTwo. “[Everything] feels like it’s a little bit choppy now.”

Other complaints from developers include the following:

It’s Full Screen Or Nothing

This means that developers can’t do things like scroll content or divide the display into smaller pieces to animate only a portion, severely limiting design possibilities.

Communication Is Asynchronous

Meaning that the real time on your phone will not match the real time on your watch, for tightly time based applications such as timers or stopwatches (it’s a watch for goodness sakes, remember?), because who knows when the watch will get updated with iOS not being a real time operating system and it’s inherent non-deterministic unpredictable task scheduling.

The Touch Screen Is Gimped

The touch screen only allows for swipes or hard presses. Drawing or other complex touchscreen operations such as pattern recognition or Apple’s doodling app are not possible. Apple is encouraging use of the “crown”.

Some Apps Get Preferential Treatment

Preferred partner apps get access to things not commonly offered by WatchKit. The most commonly cited example was that the Shazam app has access to the watch’s microphone, even though others don’t.


I am a long time BlackBerry user and fan. Beginning with the 7520, I have recognized the value of subtle productivity enhancements in BlackBerry devices for business communication and have never since strayed. Even when the iPhone took the market by storm, I was unimpressed, because it did nothing to help my business needs. Currently enjoying my one handed dream phone, the Classic! BB10 with a toolbelt! Today I contribute to UTB whenever I feel that I can help enlighten someone on the benefits of using BlackBerry over any other platform.