In announcing WatchKit and an accompanying SDK for developing apps for the Apple Watch, the Cupertino firm originally said in a November 2014 press release that “starting later next year, developers will be able to create fully native apps” for the wrist-worn device.
As Apple’s op-chief Jeff Williams joined journalists Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher on stage at Recode Conference earlier this morning, we got our official confirmation that native watch apps are indeed arriving this fall.
Apple has created a set of brand new tools that will allow programmers to write apps for your wrist that run directly on the device, resulting in faster, more responsive and more capable apps than what we have today.
More importantly, native apps will be permitted to tap directly into the sensors built into the Apple Watch and use the Digital Crown, opening doors to features not possible with current WatchKit-enabled apps.
“I’m a cyclist who uses Strava, so it will have access to the sensor,” Williams said. These native apps will start arriving this fall, he confirmed.
Another important consequence is that native apps will be able to run even as the iPhone paired to your watch is out of range or unavailable.
Williams did not say whether native apps will run on the original Apple Watch or if they might require a second-generation Apple Watch, which some rumor mongers said would come later this year.
“Third-party apps will get much better when developers can release code natively for the watch and have access to native sensors,” he explained. “That will make for better apps.”
To refresh your memory, the current crop of wrist apps run on your iPhone as WatchKit extensions. Aside from stock apps that run on the device itself, your Apple smartphone does all the heavy lifting on behalf of any third-party app you “install” on the watch.
The phone then sends user interface assets and a storyboard to your Apple Watch via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, resulting in slower-than-expected loading times, delays and experiences not as optimized as Apple’s stock apps.
Apple will preview a new developer kit for native Apple Watch development at WWDC, which kicks off in less than two weeks in San Francisco.
Williams, who oversees about 3,000 engineers and is in charge of Apple Watch development, wouldn’t divulge unit sales of the wearable device, beyond hinting Apple sold “a lot” thus far.
“The only number I will give you is that demand divided by supply is greater than one,” Williams said. “That’s all I’ve got. It’s a lot.”