The Apple Watch: Time for Disruption

After persistent rumors of its existence and essentially no leaked photos of the device itself, the Apple Watch was finally unveiled to the world this past September. The highly anticipated smartwatch is Apple’s first new product category in four years and is poised to dramatically disrupt the digital watch industry, as well as restructure the smartphone user experience.

There are a lot of unknowns here– like exactly how much the device will actually cost outside of starting at $349US and specifics on battery life — however, one thing is for certain: the Apple Watch could be a huge new boon for app developers. Apple announced that the Watch will have its own App Store for third party apps from day one.

There are endless opportunities for developers to get onboard early, and build unique new ideas to debut on an entirely new form factor. It’s not common for Apple to give third party developers access to a new device at launch — the first iPhone didn’t even have an App Store — and many have already been imagining what they can do with a device that’s always on your wrist.

The Apple WatchKit SDK is set to launch in November and its release will allow developers to start creating custom apps for the Apple Watch. Apple has already been working on apps for the Apple Watch with selected third-party companies—Tim Cook previously noted BMW, American Airlines, and Starwood amongst others—but come November, even more developers will start building Watch apps.

One app previously demoed was an American Airlines app that displayed up to date flight information such as time of departure, gate number and flight number. There are plenty of other opportunities in this area such as ordering a cab from your wrist or even using the watch to pay for your train trip. Apple also demoed navigation on the device with walking directions that use haptic feedback to seamlessly notify users of turn-by-turn directions.

Coined as a “health and fitness companion,” Apple’s new digital timepiece let’s you see your daily activity at a glance as well as your fitness progress overtime. The device comes fully equipped with a heart-rate sensor and the ability to track steps taken, calories burned, and even how long you’ve been standing or sitting. Numerous studies have shown that frequent reminders and motivation help people stay fit and aligned with such research, the smart watch reminds is said to effectively help you to lead a healthier lifestyle.

Perhaps the most exciting opportunities, however, present themselves when you think of your future Apple Watch as the new remote control for your life. In time, an app on your wrist could allow you to dim the lights in your home, while another could let you lock the door on your way out with a single tap and another could be the entire remote control for your TV.

In the future, you might be able to check in on the temperature of your smart home and adjust it from your wrist, get an update on your smart car (Is it locked? Where did I park it?), and get timely snippets of the most important news right to your wrist. Another payment app could seamlessly let you reimburse your friends with a few taps.

Watch apps won’t be just simple clones of existing apps, instead, they should complement and extend their iPhone counterparts. Apple placed a huge emphasis on this at its unveiling on September 9 when it noted that Watch apps can seamlessly use its Handoff feature to continue working on the iPhone.

The possibilities are endless but are really down to what third party app developers can dream up for the platform.

When the iPhone was released, it took third party developers to bring the device to its true potential — thousands of apps all for different purposes — as we know it today. Before Instagram was made available, the iPhone just had a camera. Before Uber and Lyft were released, the GPS chip was simply there for maps.

An opportunity for such new big ideas hasn’t been available in mobile since the iPhone was released; the question is who will come up with the best idea first, for when the watch is available on day one.