Despite investing heavily in hardware and revising the operating system, the Apple Watch is losing apps from high profile businesses. This week, Twitter joined the exodus with Google, Amazon, Target, TripAdvisor having already abandoned the platform. Why is this?
Unlike the iPhone and iPad, which resolved usability issues, the Apple Watch has never had the same obvious use-case. The main use-cases for smartwatches have centred on notifications and health. But, if you're anything like me, the first thing you do when setting up a smart watch is to turn off a bunch of notifications. Otherwise you end up with your wrist pinging and vibrating constantly.
When you look at the apps that are being killed off, they are primarily focused on notifications that are duplicating functionality that already exists on other devices. Why would I want my watch to tell me something that I can already get on my smartphone with greater clarity and easier interactivity?
I suspect this is why Apple is investing in longer-term platform plays such as HealthKit and ResearchKit. We can see some of what Apple is planning through enhancements in watchOS 4 such as alerts when your heart rate falls outside certain limits in specific circumstances.
The developers that are leaving the watchOS platform weren't adding any real value to users. So, it's not surprising that the apps are either not being downloaded or, once installed, rarely used. The developers that are creating popular watch apps are rethinking what an app needs to be.
Rather than just mimic notifications, they do on-board processing within the watch to deliver useful massaging. Or they do something on the watch that is more convenient on your wrist than on a smartphone.
I expect the number of notification-based smartphone apps for the Apple Watch and other platforms to slowly fall. But, over time, I suspect apps that offer more value to users will evolve.