Monday, October 9, 2017

watchOS SDK Limits

Benjamin Mayo:

What really puts salt in the wound is that Apple has access to a completely different Apple Watch technology stack and doesn’t hesitate to take advantage of it in its own apps. In thinking what I wanted to say for this article, I started flicking through the honeycomb and trying to find a stock app that could be visually replicated by a third party. I really, really, struggled.


The kind of things Apple doesn’t let you do are critical things that makeup a rich and responsive application. These things should not be passed off as little niceties, they serve a significant role in making an app feel alive and more enjoyable to use. Let’s drive this home with more examples of stock apps doing things third-party developers can’t.


The current WatchKit API leaves no room for invention. iOS innovations like pull-to-refresh came about because the iPhone OS UI frameworks were flexible enough to let developers and designers run wild with their own ideas, if they wanted to. Some of these custom controls worked so well Apple later incorporated them as standard components in UIKit. That free reign creativity simply can’t happen on the watch at the moment. Apple defines what is possible.

2 Comments RSS · Twitter

Isn't this pretty standard for Apple's SDK evolution? They develop some new tech and if appropriate, they'll generalize it into a framework which starts out private. At this point they use it in their own apps, which yes, gives them access to capabilities 3rd parties don't have, but is also the most effective way of ironing out issues and evolving it to a release-quality state. Then it becomes a public framework.

For some frameworks, the evolution from private to public happens from one year's OS release to the next, and for others it takes many years (e.g. XPC).

I can understand being frustrated that the WatchOS SDK is so limited right now. But in due time right? This process has a pretty good track record in creating good frameworks.

@Nigel Yes, I see Mayo’s post not so much as prescriptive but as descriptive of the current state of watchOS and an explanation for why we see the number and kind of apps that we do. What is perhaps non-standard is that the power constraints of the watch may make this whole process take longer than with macOS and iOS. On the other hand, if you look at the original WatchKit they’ve already made a lot of progress.

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