One of the things I mentioned in my Apple Watch first impressions post was how awful third-party apps seem to be. This week Uber silently dropped support for its watch app in a comically terrible way — opening the app now displays a poorly-worded message and a sad face emoji. What a ridiculous thing to do.
I don’t use Uber, but pulling watch apps out of the store has been a trend among the bigger tech companies. Uber joins Lyft, Instagram, Slack, and others in the Apple Watch app graveyard. I was working at Instagram when their watch app was released. To be honest, it was dumb and, per analytics data, almost no one used it. The main motivator for building it was to be featured in an Apple Keynote, thus its eventual removal from the store. Of course no one wanted Instagram on their watch.
* * *
I think many apps simply don’t make sense on the watch. I would not install any of the above apps, for example. But even apps that do seem to belong on Apple Watch remain awful. In my earlier post, I mentioned how RunKeeper was no match for the built-in Workout app. RunKeeper is glitchy, flakey, and has a significantly inferior UI compared to the Workout app.
At this point, the only third-party watch app that I have installed is Spotify. This is mostly out of necessity until I build up a playlist to keep in the Music app. Yesterday, I was running with only my watch and listening to Spotify. The app is often unresponsive, the UI is glitchy and clunky, and skipping songs often fails. The worst part is that the UI for the currently playing song often stops updating altogether so it gets “stuck” displaying track information for a song that was playing like 5 songs ago and never refreshes again. Even after backgrounding and foregrounding the app, the issue persists. This is basically my experience with most third-party apps so far.
* * *
The overall state of third-party apps for Apple Watch is just so disappointing, and somewhat surprising to me.
I have yet to explore watch development, so I remain curious about the limits of the hardware and the watchOS SDK. Are they still this bad? Still too constrained and limited? Or do all these big tech companies just not care? If we assume that the lack of investment from these companies is due to a lack of users, then does it even make sense to pursue a watch app as an indie developer?
At least the first-party apps are incredibly good.