Apple Watch: Perils of the approaching app deluge

Third-party developers can now submit their WatchKit apps to Apple for review and few will want to be left out. Careful thought on what information should or shouldn't be on the wrist is required.

Like thousands of Apple Development members, I received an email on Tuesday letting me know that Apple is now accepting Apple WatchKit app submissions from third-parties. Yes, the floodgates are open.

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I suspect that Apple will be quite busy reviewing Apple watch apps between now and April 24 when the watch begins shipping. That's good because those who have their Apple Watch on day one should have a fair assortment of applications to run on their digital timepiece. But there's risk involved too: Like the California gold rush of 1848, everyone will want to stake their claim for their own benefit.

That could lead to some WatchKit app experiences that just don't fit on a wrist. One of the compelling features of a smart watch is to provide glanceable, important information to reduce interaction with your phone. You could triage high-priority email, for example, get a location-based reminder, or see your heart-rate during a workout. Apps to help with these functions make sense.

What about content consumption apps though? Flipboard is among the first Apple Watch apps that will be available when the device ships. I'm a daily user of Flipboard, so this isn't a knock against it, but why would one want the top 10 Flipboard stories on a small screen? You're not likely going to read them on your watch, although you might want to save certain ones for later reading on the phone, a tablet, laptop or desktop.

Managing content such as this is better suited for a larger screen, however, and it seems as though Flipboard is trying to get in early on that digital gold rush. The New York Times is also an early entry here with a new app for the Apple Watch and you can see the company put some thought into the approach. Breaking news alerts can be pushed to the watch while one-sentence headlines and stories will appear on the wrist for maximum information with minimum interaction.

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My biggest fear is that every iOS app that pushes notifications today will generally apply the same approach to a WatchKit app. And the more notifications and information snippets that appear on the Apple Watch, the more "noise" will be created, reducing the value of what a smart watch is for in the first place.

If you don't believe that, enable all notifications for every app on your phone today and see how annoying it gets. After using smart watches since 2004, I can already tell you: It's worse when you're actually wearing the device that won't stop buzzing about for your attention.