Apple on Friday issued an advisory on its portal for developers about an important upcoming requirement for watchOS apps. According to a one-sentence post, “starting June 1, 2016, all new watchOS apps submitted to the App Store must be native apps built with the watchOS 2 SDK or later.”
Apple is scheduled to hold its annual pilgrimage for developers, WWDC, from June 13 through June 17, 2016, or two weeks after the requirement to develop strictly native apps kicks in.
The new requirements proves that Apple is done accepting old-style Apple Watch apps that were heavily dependent on the iPhone.
Sluggish non-native apps
As you know, the first wave of apps that were built for the Apple Watch after its April 2015 debut were basically provided in the form of special extensions that executed on the Apple Watch’s connected iPhone.
An extension would stream a storyboard and assets over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to the Apple Watch, and the watchOS software then displayed the required user interface elements. All the number crunching and heavy lifting was performed on the connected iPhone, not the watch. That approach did work, but just barely: apps took ages to load, they were sluggish and performance was unacceptable.
So-called “native” watchOS 2 apps
With watchOS 2, Apple turned things upside down: now an extension runs on the Apple Watch itself rather than on the iPhone. However, the handset is still needed for location services, network access and other features.
Apple calls these watchOS 2 apps native, but they still feel to me like web apps. True, apps now load faster and can take advantage of the Digital Crown, the heart rate sensor and other hardware features of the wearable device, but their performance still leaves a lot to be desired.
Apple is widely expected to announce a second-generation Apple Watch with a faster hardware this summer or fall. If an Apple-designed ‘S2’ processor for the Apple Watch 2 proves to be two times faster, then these teething issues might become a thing of the past.
Do you own an Apple Watch and if so, what’s your take on the current state of native apps on the platform? Are you satisfied with the performance and responsiveness of Apple Watch apps? And what steps do you think Apple should take in order to make the watchOS software and apps run as smoothly as iOS and their iPhone counterparts do?