Why I Think watchOS 1 Did Long-term Damage to Apple Watch’s Reputation

Let me start by saying I do not hate Apple Watch. I love Apple Watch, I have two different models and have owned more than that, and the device hasn’t been out even a year yet. It’s an awesome little device and has so much potential.

But, I personally feel Apple made a significant error releasing Apple Watch with watchOS 1 which will do some very long-term damage to Apple Watch’s reputation for iterations to come. Here’s why:

1. People think Apple Watch is slow

watchOS 1 apps had a very different architecture to watchOS 2 apps. watchOS 1 apps were, in essence, extensions of an iOS app which ran on the iPhone itself, and essentially just used the watch as a second screen.

To load anything, or respond to taps, Apple Watch had to ask the iPhone for the information or to carry out the task and then refresh the UI and send any data back. Over Bluetooth. This took a lot of time, especially when first loading the app’s UI, and everything felt sluggish.

Mere months later, Apple release watchOS 2 to developers with native apps. Native apps no longer get loaded from the iPhone each time and all components of the app are stored on the watch. Apple Watch apps can now do most computation on-device, and don’t need to load the UI from the iPhone. Everything is super speedy, well-written apps load in 3-5 seconds, and UI is very responsive, but it requires (parts of) the app to be re-written. This brings me to point 2:

2. Many developers don’t want to spend time porting a watchOS 1 app to watchOS 2

Whether you’re a big company or an independent developer, finding out there’s a whole new architecture (and new APIs to port to as a result1) to develop for just a few months after the device has released isn’t great news. It takes time to develop an app, especially on a brand new platform, even on a device as small as Apple Watch.

I’ve lost the article now (I think it was on WatchAware.com) but there was a report about how few apps have been updated to be native, and for me this is still true for many watchOS apps that I use like Philips Hue. It’s frustrating to know that their app could load significantly faster if they ported to watchOS 2, and if a company that¬†far advanced in terms of iOS and HomeKit support haven’t ported to watchOS 2, is it so surprising that more independent developers haven’t either?

We can’t expect all users of Apple Watch to understand that even though they’ve updated to watchOS 2, an app isn’t automatically native. To them, it’s just another slow to load app. This hurts the developers’ reputation and also Apple Watch’s reputation.

So many developers wanted to make the gold rush when Apple Watch was released, there were so many apps being released at the time that it was staggering. Imagine if every single one of those apps were native and had access to the same APIs that apps could a mere few months later.

In my opinion, Apple should have waited. It would have launched with reviews of how responsive the UI is in apps, rather than the opposite.


1 Updating my app, MacID for Apple Watch, to support watchOS 2 was surprisingly more difficult than I expected. If I had multiple apps to port to watchOS 2 I honestly couldn’t say if I would have spent the time porting all of them, but that just further highlights my point.

Kane Cheshire

Author: Kane Cheshire

I'm a software developer (and sort of designer) from Hertfordshire. I spend a lot of time learning, travelling and flying my drone. I made MacID. You can check out some of my favourite photographs from travelling at http://kane.codes. I'm also the creator and lover of Twicnic, an annual Twitter picnic event.

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