Zero Distraction / An Anthology of Examined Nerdy Things

Rethinking watchOS Apps

Preamble

I’ve had my Series 3 Apple Watch for about a month now. I’ve spent enough time with it and need to talk about the state of watchOS apps and where we need to go from here.

My experience with third party watchOS apps has been inconsistent. Some work reliably and others don’t. I’ll pick on Facebook Messenger. Half the time it never loads messages.

Facebook Messenger watchOS

Irrespective of being on LTE cellular or a strong WiFi connection on my iPhone, I’m greeted with a spinning wheel of death. I’m at a loss as to what exactly is going on behind the scenes. First party apps from Apple have been excellent and work as expected, so I surmise that two things are potentially happening: Facebook Messenger is a poorly coded app, or having access to private APIs gives Apple an edge. I don’t know enough about the watchOS APIs to say for certain.

In addition to performance related issues with some third-party apps, the user interface and experience of many apps leave something to be desired. On The Impromptu podcast where I talk with my co-host, Michael Norton, we brought up the state of watchOS apps. Are watchOS apps trying too hard to replicate the functionality of their larger iOS counterparts? Perhaps in some cases, and in those instances, they might need to be redesigned.

How I use Apple Watch

In addition to the wealth of sensors that provide incredible health monitoring, one of the largest tentpole features of Apple Watch is that I don’t have to pull my iPhone out of my pocket to read notifications. At a glance, I can see iMessages and respond to them via dictation, or dismiss other nonimportant social media related notifications if I chose. A majority of my interactions with Apple Watch are related to notifications, with only a small percentage associated with tasks such as changing the volume of music/podcast playback.

Conclusion

I posit that Siri should be the one app you need for most of the tasks you want to perform, but to realize that, Siri needs to get better; fast. It needs to understand context–something that still seems like an impossible feat in 2017. It gets stuff wrong, more times than I’d like. The pessimist’s view believes Siri is a hot mess and will never be good enough to rely on for most watch interactions, but the optimist in me hopes we get there soon.

Siri should be the one app you need for most of the tasks you want to perform, but to realize that, Siri needs to get better; fast. It needs to understand context Click To Tweet