The Apple Watch is trying to reclaim some market energy, and Apple’s new method for doing so might be its smartest yet.
At WWDC 2018, Apple unveiled watchOS 5, the latest version of its wrist-worn operating system. The updated platform doubles down on fitness, and adds a “walkie-talkie” feature so two Apple Watch users can communicate Dick Tracy-style.
The Siri watch face is getting better, too, and will now support third-party apps. It will feature sports scores, maps info, heart rate details, and Siri Shortcuts based on the time of day you glance at it. Users will also be able to forgo the ‘hey Siri’ prompt; now, a simple raise of the wrist will trigger Siri so you can ask questions more naturally.
Perhaps the most notable feature is new Interactive Notifications. Instead of a simple message and prompt to open an accompanying iPhone app, the Apple Watch with watchOS 5 will let you complete some menial tasks.
For example: You grab a Lyft to a restaurant. With watchOS 5, Lyft may let you rate your driver, tip, and pay in the Apple Watch app. Yelp might prompt you to rate the restaurant once dinner is over.
This is precisely what we’ve suggested Apple should do. In March, I wrote the following:
At some point, we’d expect WatchKit “apps” to simply become views for iOS apps. The Siri watch face is the first stab at this. Instead of a bunch of notifications and a clumsy screen for apps, Apple Watch should be a contextual frame of reference. This can be better accomplished through APIs: You might pop into a grocery store and find Apple Pay on your watch ready for a transaction when you hit the checkout line; it spun up the moment you walked into the store, because your iPhone told the watch where you were, and the store accepts Apple Pay.
With watchOS 5, we’ve reached this point. With the Siri watch face, context is king, and the watchOS apps are essentially views for iOS apps.
Lyft might actually be testing the aforementioned example. It recently pulled its watchOS app, saying it was “testing” a new watch app integration. It’s entirely possible Apple provided Lyft a preview of watchOS 5 and the new tools available, and the ride-sharing giant is simply working on a new version.
Making watchOS apps into ‘views’ for iOS apps is easier to support. Really, it’s querying functionality on your phone, and utilizing an API to handle the mundane aspects. It seems small, but this is a critical step if Apple wants the Apple Watch to become more than a glorified fitness band.