Independence For Apple Watch
A Mac Pro that is as expensive as it is powerful, the many new features for the iPad, Apple's own Sign In With Apple registration service and the deserved retirement of iTunes were the most striking announcements and innovations at Apple's developer conference WWDC.
But what about the watch? For the Apple Watch, the two and a half hour event featured a few new dials, a few apps (including a volume meter and a menstruation tracker) and an independent Appstore. Was that really all? Yes, but...
What the launch of an independent app store means for the Apple Watch (i.e. the possibility to find, buy and install apps directly on the watch), only really became clear during the course of the developer conference.
While Apple was still quite reserved at the big opening keynote, which was intended for a broad audience, An Apple manager left no doubt only hours later at the State Of The Union keynote about the intention behind the new app store: “The real story for watchOS 6 is: It’s now possible to declare independence from the phone!“
With the bold slogan, she meant the independence of the Apple Watch from the iPhone. Currently, you need an iPhone to activate the Apple Watch and, above all, to use it in a meaningful way. The Apple Watch does not work with Android mobile phones. To install apps on the watch, for example, there is no way around the Apple smartphone. And for every app on the watch, you also need a corresponding app on the iPhone.
This will no longer be necessary with the latest version of watchOS. It will be possible to install apps directly on the watch and above all to have apps exclusively on the watch.
But does this mean that all apps in the watch app store have to be completely independent and work with LTE? No, Apple explains when asked. There would be no obligation for every new app to work independently via LTE and without an iPhone.
It's quite possible that Apple will toughen this rule in the future, but of course, they wouldn't reveal that in such a conversation in advance or even comment on it. Currently, this less radical approach also makes much more sense. After all, the vast majority of Apple watches sold and in circulation are unlikely to have an LTE function at all.
More and more independent
The introduction of its own app store for the watch fits in with the evolution Apple Watch has made in recent years with every software update and every new watch model. The watch has constantly become a little more independent of the iPhone. At one time the watch got its own GPS, at another an LTE modem, etc.
Seen this way, the new Appstore is another step towards a completely independent platform. As a reminder, the iPad had a similar evolution. Initially, you needed a computer with iTunes on it for activations, backups, and updates. It took several years for the iPad to become an independent platform. (Yes, only this year it gets its own operating system with iPadOS.)
If you take a look at the numerous presentations at the developer conference and the published publications, you'll find many more small steps towards an independent and self-contained watch.
In the near future, it will be possible to request and install watchOS updates directly on the watch. Until now, this was only possible via the watch app on the iPhone. Likewise, it should no longer be necessary to get out the iPhone every time, for example, to give a health app access to sensitive sensor data. With watchOS 6, this can be decided directly on the watch.
Like iPhone, iPad, and Mac
Push notifications will also no longer be forwarded from the iPhone to the watch. App developers can now push to the watch just as precisely as they can to iPhones, iPads or Macs.
Thanks to a new Streaming API it‘s now possible for Spotify to bring the full experience to Apple Watch. Before only a few apps like Apple Music were allowed to stream music.
Thanks to "Sign In With Apple", it will soon be possible to log in to a new app or even create a user account on the watch with a single click. If you prefer to enter your email address and password manually, of course, you can.
A nice detail: with watchOS 6 you can also use an iPhone or iPad as a typing aid. Similar to the search on Apple TV, a push message appears on iOS devices with the same Apple account, asking if you would rather fill in the text field on a device with a more comfortable keyboard.
Another very interesting detail was discovered soon after the announcement.
The fact that SwiftUI was first intended for the watch and later became the a tool for all Apple platforms underscores the importance of the watch. It‘s not an accessory. It‘s where Apple launches new technologies and brings new features first. Later these innovations trickle down to other Apple devices.
If you look at these fundamental but also very technical changes, it quickly becomes clear why Apple only declared the independence of the watch in front of a professional audience.
It will take years before the watch becomes a completely independent platform. But then the Apple Watch should work just as well with non-Apple devices like an iPad with an Android phone or an iPhone with a Windows PC today.
You may not have all of Apple's comfort features, but thanks to cross-platform web services and third-party apps, this is no longer a problem.
But now we should wait until September. Then Apple will release the new watchOS 6 via an update to Apple Watches (Series 1 and newer). Most likely Apple will show a new Apple Watch at the beginning of September as well. It's quite possible that one or the other new feature of Apple Watch Series 5 will bring us a bit closer to independence from the iPhone.
All screenshots were taken from the official WWDC app from Apple.
You can watch the WWDC State Of The Union keynote: here.
You can watch the WWDC Session about independent watch apps: here.
This article was first written for the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger and later translated from German into English.