It’s sort of crazy to think how many Apple keynotes I’ve been through since the beginning of TouchArcade. We’ve seen the 3GS finally bring a real GPU to the platform, the iPad arriving at the party with a totally different form factor, the iPhone 4 getting a gyroscope, and more. The thing that all these had in common, was that even though no one knew anything about how supporting them was going to work when they were announced, our inbox was flooded with developers planning to do something.
The gold rush mentality has been in place in the world of iOS since around fall of 2008. That was when the first reports started coming in that, for instance, a guy made an app which really only was a nicely polished drum kit soundboard who (last I heard) made hundreds of thousands of dollars on it. Similarly, and potentially most famously, Steve Demeter’s Trism re-wrote what success was for an indie developer.
People chasing that dream (or other folks just interested in making cool stuff) often leads to people absolutely stuffing our inbox with what they’re going to do. We were getting emails about iPad games before the iPad announcement was even over, developers were floating ideas on neat ways to use the gyroscope the same day. They might’ve been half baked ideas that were based on not even really knowing how stuff would even work out in the end, but the drive and excitement were both there.
The weird thing about the announcement of the Apple Watch is we’ve yet to receive a single email about cool stuff developers are working on. I didn’t really even think about it until this morning, when a friend of mine sent me an instant message asking what kind of awesome Apple Watch stuff I’ve heard is coming. It’s seriously, the first time, ever, where I was able to say “I actually haven’t heard… anything." Not even on the down low.
So you’re probably thinking, “Yeah, but, what could people even make for the Apple Watch?" Well, the Pebble smart watch App Store is the best example of what’s possible right now, and I still think a lot of what the Pebble can do has yet to be fully realized. The killer feature of any watch is pushing notifications out to your wrist, but simple games like Pixel Miner have been wildly popular.
As the name hints, Pixel Miner is a game about digging. It’s actually the perfect game for your watch, as it’s incredibly passive. You don’t even control your character, instead, it’s just a vaguely interactive version of Progress Quest mixed with some Minecraft-y flair and character progression that feels a little like building your starting village up in A Dark Room ($1.99) in that you start out mining a few pixels at a time and then you’re mining tons- Just like how soon your village is a wood and meat producing megacomplex.
Pixel Miner is an outlier in the rest of the Pebble app ecosystem which seems to be loaded with the same bad signal to noise ratio of the App Store. (Of course there’s Flappy Bird clones as well.) The difference between the Pebble App Store and the iOS App Store is everything on the Pebble side is free, and likely always will be.
You browse and install apps via the Pebble Smartwatch App , and with how much Apple has been cracking down on anything that vaguely resembles an App Store, it wouldn’t surprise me if the whole reason the Pebble app is allowed to exist like this is because you can’t buy anything in it. (Mind you, some developers have gotten around this by selling a companion iOS app like Smartwatch+ for Pebble which you need for the free Pebble app to work.)
If Apple has proven anything, it’s that they are masters in getting people to pay for things. While there hasn’t been any plans announced yet on how Apple Watch apps will work, there’s not a doubt in my mind that you’ll be able to exchange money for additional functionality on the watch created by third party developers. That’s how the iOS ecosystem works, and a big reason why iOS devices have grown from being the $500 phone your friends made fun of you for buying to the device that everyone has.
I don’t doubt for a second that the Apple Watch will see similar popularity. In fact, recent history has shown that the quickest way to make yourself look like a complete idiot in a few months is to doubt the success of an Apple product launch. The things people said about the iPod are just as laughable today as the folks who wrote off the iPad as “just a big iPhone." Additionally, let’s not forget the people who need to post on every iPhone unveiling article about how “Apple has truly lost its way" and how “Steve never would’ve…" only for it to go on and break sales records and cause Apple stock to soar higher.
The Apple Watch seems like the perfect platform for complementary experiences to existing games and very basic standalone games. Imagine, for instance, if you could restock your Tiny Tower Vegas (Free) floors using your watch, where the watch screen represented the delivery truck bringing your tower things. Or, even the same simple gambling functionality on your Apple Watch but you’re playing using the chips and earning the bux that you can use in game. Simple tilt games like Doodle Jump ($0.99) would totally work, and this isn’t even beginning to scratch the surface of all the cool new stuff the Apple Watch can do, rather, just applying existing things smart watches can do applied to the iOS ecosystem.
I just can’t figure out why developers aren’t onboard with this, or if they are, why they’re not being more publicly excited about it. I fully expected to wake up today to an inbox full of weird concepts and other stuff I could run with of things developers want to make for the Apple Watch. Instead, nothing. When I asked about it on Twitter, responses included things like questioning whether or not developers even can write software for it, but, does anyone remember when everyone thought you could never install third party apps on an iPhone?