It’s been a long wait since September, but Apple Watch launch day is finally upon us—and Apple has brought some 3,000 apps to the party, according to the best estimates. At the time of writing, WatchAware is showing 2,436.
Too bad most of them are doomed to obscurity.
The Gold Rush Is On
Developers are falling over themselves to announce Apple Watch support, and who can blame them? This is the biggest gadget launch of the year, and there’s no shortage of apps hoping to ride along on the hype.
Apple has singled out apps by Instagram, Yelp, The New York Times and Twitter as particularly worthy of attention. Others so anointed include Citymapper, weather forecasting app Dark Sky and Mint, the personal finance tracker.
Then there are the apps shown off by Apple on stage in September and March: The American Airlines app for getting through the airport terminal more efficiently, and the Starwood Hotels app for unlocking your hotel room door with a swipe of your wrist.
Media outlets have been equally keen to push their lists of must-have Apple Watch apps that should be installed as soon as the wearable is unwrapped. It’s quite a contrast to the launch of the iPhone, which of course had no third-party app support to begin with.
Irrespective of how many units it actually sells, the Apple Watch is generating a huge amount of interest—and it makes sense for developers to try and tap into that. It’s a ticket into the biggest tech party of the year.
But at the same time it’s important to temper expectations about just how many of these apps are going to gain traction on the wrist, where screen size and attention span is more limited than ever before.
Smartphone app development can rake in millions with the right formula, but life on the long tail of that success is less appealing. If anything, there are going to be fewer winners on wearables, not more.
While developers rush to get their apps updated to take advantage of the new smartwatch, not every app suits a 1.5-inch display. Get the mix wrong, and users might actually end up spending less time with an app because of its Apple Watch extension.
Once the initial rush for Watch compatibility dies down, and Apple opens up the field to standalone apps that can run independently on the wearable, we’ll get a much better idea of who has found the right balance and who hasn’t. The winners in the wearable app rush will be the ones that offer the most usefulness, not those that got there first.
Lead photo manipulated by Brian Rubin for ReadWrite; other images courtesy of Apple and WatchAware