Whiffing it with the Apple Watch API (even 2.0)

In looking at this infographic on the advancing power of various iPhones over the years, I was struck by something completely orthogonal: apparently the Apple Watch is as powerful as the iPhone 4, one of my very favorite phones in the whole line (the first retina display!). In light of how disappointing the apps that were ready at the launch of watchOS 2.0 were this week, it feels like there is a lot of CPU being wasted.

The more I use my watch though, the more it strikes me that the "app model" is entirely the wrong approach to a wearable on your wrist. The only app I want to be "native" is a podcast/media player and that is for the purposes of running without an open face sandwich strapped to my arm. Otherwise I suspect the complications (the equivalent of desktop widgets) are more than enough of an API for third parties looking to hook into my attention.

Because at the end of the day that is what the current Watch does best: allow notifications to be less intrusive if one feels compelled to take the phone out to handle them. I don't buy that they can be more intrusive given how easy the Watch is to put into DND (do not disturb) mode.

So rather than waste the CPU on aping the phone app store model, what could be done with original thinking on the API? The world's best wearable— always collecting data and doing a bare minimum amount of machine learning to understand your activity, your health, and your intent over the next couple of hours— all with no cloud and no phone. This seems like a much more worthwhile task than pretending to be a small smartphone on your wrist— which incidentally is why I just don't get all of the people who "can't wait" for untethered watches.

It would take real leadership to admit that the native app focus was wrong and to completely retool the API but if the Watch is going to be its own thing this is what it is going to take. Let's see if Apple is up to the task.