Spotify today released what it’s calling the “first version” of its Apple Watch application. In its current state, Spotify for Apple Watch is nothing to write home about – and it doesn’t come close to rivaling Apple Music’s integration with watchOS. On the flip side, it’s a step in the right direction not only for Spotify, but also for Apple Watch apps in general.
An unfortunate trend among some companies and developers recently is the discontinuation of Apple Watch applications. We’ve reported extensively on the death of Apple Watch apps such as Twitter, Instapaper, Slack, Instagram, Whole Foods, eBay, and others.
The primary reason for many of these applications dropping their watchOS apps is Apple’s deprecation of support for Apple Watch apps built with WatchKit 1.0. WatchKit 1.0 applications relied entirely on a paired iPhone for functionality – but with the faster processors and cellular connectivity of newer Apple Watch models, Apple is pushing developers towards native watchOS applications.
Thus, developers have been forced to make a decision on whether or not to update their Apple Watch apps to newer versions of the watchOS SDK, or discontinue them all together. Unfortunately, the trend among many companies, like Instagram and Slack, has been to drop Apple Watch support altogether.
Over a year ago, Zac called on developers to rethink Apple Watch apps, not abandon them:
As someone who is enthusiastic about the Apple Watch, it’s disappointing to see apps disappear from the platform without much mention. There are tools to make better apps for Apple Watch that some high-profile app makers haven’t used yet, and there are possibilities for new apps to exist that haven’t been created yet.
This is where Spotify’s “first version” Apple Watch application comes into play. It’s not a great app on the surface, and it lacks many features you’d want for an audio player on Apple Watch: streaming support, offline playback, and browsing support.
However, the approach Spotify is taking to developing its watchOS application is one I would love to see other companies also adopt. Spotify is being upfront about the state of its Apple Watch app – calling it the “first version” and promising additional features in updates coming down the road. This is far better than not offering an Apple Watch app at all,
Look at Instagram, for instance. I’d welcome an early, basic Apple Watch application with support for scrolling through my feed independent of the iPhone app. For Slack, I would climb mountains for the simple ability to view unread messages on watchOS.
The ultimate takeaway here is that I’d much prefer a version 1 Apple Watch app, with a promise for future updates, than no Apple Watch app at all. Spotify is doing exactly this, and it’s an approach I hope other companies and developers will also take in the future. Give me basic functionality in a watchOS app, and update as time permits, but don’t abandon Apple Watch altogether when it shows so much promise.
It’s also worth pointing out that where many large companies have faltered in watchOS adoption, a number of indie developers have succeeded. Chirp does a great job of replicating the Twitter experience on Apple Watch, while Nano does similar for Reddit. HomeRun is great for running HomeKit scenes from Apple Watch. Overcast is a great alternative to Apple’s own Podcasts app.
Apps like those serve as great examples of everything the Apple Watch has the potential to be, and they’re setting precedent that we can only hope large developers and companies follow.
What applications do you hope to see next on Apple Watch? Are there any third-party watch apps that stand out to you? Let us know down in the comments.
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