clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The 6 apps that show where Apple Watch is going

New, 89 comments

They're a little slow now, but they're going to be a big deal

The Apple Watch is going to be a Big Deal for apps — just not this month. There are already over 1,000 Watch apps waiting for Apple's approval, but the ones that hit iTunes two weeks from now aren't going to be the most exciting. For now, Watch apps are just basic containers of information being beamed from a nearby iPhone to an Apple Watch. The real Watch apps — the ones that may truly make you want an Apple Watch — are likely still months and months away.

Read next: Read our Apple Watch review.

But even with what's available today, it's clear where the Apple Watch is headed. The apps that Apple has lined up for the Watch's launch define a very clear future for where the Watch — and its app ecosystem — are going. Here's what that looks like based on six of the most important apps already out there.

Uber

You don't need to do a lot with Uber's iPhone app. You put in your credit card info, let it access your location, and that's about it. From then on, all you need to do is press a button to hail a cab. For Uber, a Watch app offers a quicker way for people to get to that button.

That doesn't sound like much, but that simplification is quite possibly what will make smartwatch apps work — and work well. Not just for Uber, but for any app that's based around simple, quick interactions or can implement something like them. Seamless is going to be a hazard if it launches one-tap reordering of your favorite meals. Winning an auction will be much easier if eBay gives a one-tap option to raise your bid. This is the exact same model that Amazon is tapping into with its instant-order Dash buttons — if something's easier, you'll probably do a lot more of it.

Uber may be the best example of this interaction model on the Apple Watch right now, but it's not perfect. In fact, it's quickly apparent that being no more than a button is actually too simple. Want to select what type of car you're hailing? You're out of luck. Want to see what location Uber's going to pick you up in? Better hope that your phone's GPS is working properly. Putting the hail button right in front of you — after you wait for the app to load and detect your location — is a great way to interact with Uber on the Watch. Uber and other apps like it just needs to figure out an equally simple way to let you go two steps further.

Dark Sky

Dark Sky is basically the corollary to Uber. The app isn't even a button — it's just a couple numbers that you want to see. But here's the key difference: you want to see Dark Sky's information regularly and have it pop up when it's important. The Apple Watch is arguably a better way to do that than the iPhone, which still makes you pull down a notification tray or open up Dark Sky's app.

That doesn't totally change on the Apple Watch: if you want to see Dark Sky, you still have to pull up the Glances screen and swipe over to it (and, like all Glances, wait for it to load). This isn't much better than swiping to the notification screen on your iPhone, though it is a bit more informative.

Where the app does shine right now is in notifications. On the iPhone, Dark Sky sends you a brief text update every now and then warning you if it's going to rain, how hard, and for how long. On the Apple Watch, Dark Sky will actually send you a chart of what to expect. It's the type of detailed information that makes you pay attention to what the app is saying — it answers your next question ("When is it going to rain?") without making you open up the app.

It's these glanceable basics that really stand out on the Apple Watch. The New York Times has already made an app that shows off headlines, and chances are we'll see a lot of other apps playing to this type of interaction.

Nike+ Running

Health is supposed to be huge on the Apple Watch. That's not true yet — in fact, third-party apps can't even access its heart-rate sensor! — but it's no secret that Apple has big ambitions here. And, chances are, third-party apps will play as big of a role in that as Apple.

Nike+ Running is launching alongside the Watch as a fairly fully featured app, offering run distance, pace, location, and history. The trouble is, the data is all coming from your iPhone right now. We haven't been able to try Nike+ out just yet, but it still appears to be a great example of what type of information we want to see and see quickly from a workout app. Again, this is very much a start that doesn't make use of the Watch's hardware, but it's a sign of developers already responding in a robust way to Apple's grander plans for health.

Fandango Apple Watch app (EMBARGOED)

Fandango

You probably don't need to be able to buy movie tickets on your watch, but Fandango's Watch app does handle one thing that you will want: getting your ticket. This is something that it's been able to do using Passbook on the iPhone for years now, but the Watch app is intended to make that one step easier. Your ticket should just be ready when you need it — without having to pull out your phone.

That's only a small benefit, but it's something that you're likely to see in conjunction with Passbook across a lot of other apps. Tickets, loyalty cards, and payment options should start being even more accessible when you need them. Apple Pay is already one of the Watch's strongest features. It's still limited to payments, but as it grows and the platform matures, expect features like this to become even more prevalent across the Watch's OS and its biggest apps.

Twitter

As you'd expect, many of the biggest social networks are ready with Watch apps on day one. Of those, Twitter's short-form updates seem to make the most sense for the Apple Watch — but it isn't Twitter's app itself that really stands out here. Rather, it's that Twitter is one of the social networks that soared thanks to the rise of smartphones. The Watch may not change that, but there's a chance that we'll see new networks build around it, the same way that Twitter, Snapchat, and Tinder have all built up around the smartphone.

At first, we're going to see a lot of social networks that grew up on other platforms doing their best to adapt to the Watch, lest they miss an important new platform (just ask Facebook how it feels about mobile). Twitter's approach is to heavily streamline what it offers: from the main screen, you can look at your timeline or you can look at current trends, and that's it. That's a big change for Twitter, which typically offers more views than it even knows what to do with. It's probably still too much for Twitter — looking through your timeline is often a lengthy task — but it's a start that shows Twitter honing in on simpler information. You can't check every tweet on your Watch, but you can at least see what's popular.

If smartphones are any indication, it could be a few years before we see any lasting network pop up for the Apple Watch. For now, at least you'll stop missing DMs.

Honeywell

Honeywell may not have the brand cachet with early adopters that Nest does, but its Watch app is a perfect example of how Apple is moving into the home. If you have one of Honeywell's connected thermostats, you'll be able to change the temperature in your home just by tapping up or down in the app on your Watch.

That is certainly a simple interaction that you could handle with a phone, but you're going to see a lot more of this very soon. Products supporting Apple's HomeKit are on the way, and the Internet of Things was the hot topic of this year's CES. The Apple Watch will increasingly be able to control parts of your house — chances are, we aren't so far away from being able to tap specific scene settings as you arrive back home. Beyond that, it sounds like Apple intends for the Watch eventually to be able to unlock your car, potentially making the Watch a key way for controlling things around you.

Apple's done a great job of getting all of the high-profile names you can ask for on board with its watch for launch day. The interesting part is where it goes from here. What we're looking at are the most basic versions of Apple Watch apps that you can ask for. In a lot of the cases, the apps being shown off don't even seem particularly well designed. In other cases, you have to wonder why you'd want to use that given app on a watch. And in basically all cases, the apps take too long to load. But core concepts for Apple Watch apps are already out there and in use — now, it's just a matter of waiting for more apps to make good use of them.

Verge Video: It's finally here- Reviewing the Apple Watch