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I saw this coming a mile away, and I’m sure I’ll keep seeing it — people developing Apple Watch apps just so they can say they have an Apple Watch app.

The truth is, an Apple Watch app is just an extension of the main app running on a paired iPhone. And using WatchKit for the development of a basic Apple Watch app isn’t very labor- or cost-intensive. It may be too easy.

At this early stage, I’ve seen probably 50 new Watch apps, and only half of them seem like they have a solid reason for existing.

Many seem to lack a clear purpose. These apps usually merely grab some element of banal information from the iPhone app and display it on the wrist, sometimes using the Watch’s “taptic feedback” engine to give users a buzz on the wrist for no good reason.

In order for a Watch app to be really useful, it has to do something that a smartphone can’t do. Or it has to do something that a smartphone does — but do it in a way that’s easier and more accessible to the user.

Apple made a wise move by liberating the Watch from the iPhone for mobile payments. Sure, the phone can execute a mobile payment, but doing it with the Watch is a little less clumsy. This is true for two reasons. With the Watch, you don’t have to reach into your pocket to grab your device. And with the Watch, you have nothing to grip and carry — it’s strapped to your wrist, so you can’t fumble with it or drop it.

Sometimes you can’t spare that hand to dig for the phone. The doctor in the ER may need to dial up some vital piece of information (using the voice recognition) on the Watch while still keeping both hands on (or in) the patient. A notification of a time-sensitive message from another person on the multi-disciplinary care team might come in, with information that could change the care plan. I’m sure there are jobs like this in other industries that require the use of both hands for extended periods of time.

Several airlines have created apps that allow travelers to use the Watch to check-in for flights. This is easier than reaching for, and possibly fumbling with, a smartphone — especially if you need both hands to carry luggage and/or children.

Right now, many of the components of the Apple Watch are locked down and unavailable to developers. The near-field communication chip, for instance, is not available for use by Watch apps. So, for instance, a public transportation company can not write an app that lets people use their Watch to pass the turnstile.

Once developers can access more of the Watch, the chances of someone developing the first really killer app for the Watch become much greater.

The point is, Watch apps need to exploit the things that a wearable computer is uniquely designed and positioned to do. Anything less is just redundant.


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