Apple Unveils The Apple Watch Native App SDK

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The Apple Watch just became a much more interesting development platform with the announcement of watchOS 2 and a true native app SDK at WWDC this morning.

Apple vice president Kevin Lynch came on stage to demonstrate the first new function available for third-party developers: Complications. Developers will be able to create widgets for the Apple Watch’s various watch faces, making it easier for users to quickly see small bits of info from an app throughout their day.

Using a new feature called “Time Travel,” users will be able to rotate the Digital Crown to look through the history of the information shown in their Complications. That way, you could see how an MLB game progressed by scanning through the previous score updates, right from the watch face.

Digging further into APIs that will be available for third-party apps in the new native SDK, Lynch said the Apple Watch will gain features like video playback, broader uses for the built-in microphone, access to the speaker, and access to HealthKit, including streaming heart rate data.

Developers will also be able to access the Watch’s accelerometer and Taptic Engine, opening the door for apps with motion control and touch-based output. With the Apple Watch’s Wi-Fi radio available to developers, the company further reduces the need to have a paired iPhone nearby at all times.

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Previously, developers interested in bringing their apps to the Apple Watch had to use an SDK known as WatchKit. While it let developers create apps for your wrist, software made with this toolkit actually runs on the user’s paired iPhone, with data and interface elements transmitting over to the Watch over Bluetooth LE.

The delay that came with those transfers has been a significant limit on the user experience of apps on the Apple Watch, leading to seconds of delay as an app opens.

Apple senior vice president of operations Jeff Williams hinted at the recent Code Conference that the native SDK would be revealed today, bringing with it support for apps to read data directly from the Apple Watch’s sensors.

Developers can start working with the watchOS 2 beta later today, while mainstream users will have to wait for a public release this fall.