The next big step for the Apple Watch: liberation from the iPhone
- Fast Company
Apple will unveil its latest OS for the Apple Watch at its WWDC developer event in Cupertino next week. The new features we expect to see, combined with the coming 5G wireless
Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman scooped a batch of new features likely coming in WatchOS 6, but the biggest one is a new App Store. Currently, you have to get Watch apps from the App Store on an iPhone. But if Gurman is right, WatchOS will cut the phone out of the process. Remember that it was the arrival of the App Store that marked the beginning of the iPhone’s rise to become the most-used smartphone in the world. The iPhone got its on-device store (with a dazzling 500 apps) on July 10, 2008, the day before the launch of the iPhone 3G.
Whether or not the introduction of an on-Watch app store has similar magic effects on adoption, it will be a sizable step toward the Watch’s total independence from the iPhone. This autonomy, I believe, has been part of Apple’s plan for the device all along.
It wasn’t easy to tell this at first. The first Apple Watch, released in 2015, was like a companion device for the iPhone. It let you glance at your wrist and decide, in many cases, that the notification you just got didn’t warrant pulling out your phone. Other functions made the Watch a remote control for things like the iPhone’s camera or music player.
While those early functions stayed, 2016’s second-generation Watch seemed to aim at a specific set of health and fitness use cases. Along with more health and fitness tracking features in the OS, the Watch got its own GPS radio, which let users map or track their runs while the iPhone stayed at home.
Things got more interesting with 2017’s Apple Watch Series 3, which got its own cellular radio and was no longer dependent on the iPhone to make calls or connect to the internet. (Remember the Apple commercial with someone answering a phone call—while surfing?)
The following year, the Watch Series 4 got a larger screen (the largest size moved from 42mm to 44mm). More importantly, the display increased 30% in size simply by using far more of the area on the front of the device. The increased display space is crucial for creating a user interface large enough to support additional functions that you’d normally accomplish on a phone. The Series 4 got a much faster processor for the same reason, as well as to make navigation and opening apps faster and smoother.