Apple Watch Apps Are Dead, Long Live Apple Watch Apps

9to5Mac reports that Instapaper has dropped Apple Watch support:

Just two weeks after announcing it was going independent, popular read-it-later service Instapaper has updated its iOS application to remove support for Apple Watch. Instapaper was one of the first applications to ever support Apple Watch, launching its client on Apple Watch release day in 2015…

On Apple Watch, Instapaper allowed users to access text-to-speech playback of saved articles. The app also supported reorganizing articles, “liking” them, deleting or archiving, and more. While those features were originally hidden behind a $2.99 per month Premium upgrade, they became free in 2016 after Instapaper’s acquisition by Pinterest.

Instapaper is just the latest iOS app to drop support for its Apple Watch client. Earlier this year, Instagram killed off its Apple Watch application, as did Slack, Whole Food, eBay, and several others.

The reasons Instapaper had for dropping Apple Watch support are similar to those we’ve heard before. Apple deprecated WatchKit 1.0 and requires existing apps to be updated, but app usage was so low that it wasn’t worth the effort.

But why was usage so low? Some see this as a sign that Apple Watch just isn’t a viable app platform, but I disagree. I think the main reason why some apps suffer from poor adoption is that they simply lacked any meaningful purpose. Apps like Instapaper weren’t solving a particular problem or serving a need. As a result, they felt forced and unnecessary.

At WWDC in 1997, Steve Jobs responded to a question from the audience with one of his most memorable quotes:

You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you can sell it.

This is as true today as it was 21 years ago, and I’d argue it explains why some Apple Watch apps didn’t take. It isn’t because the platform isn’t viable, it’s simply that some developers started with the technology and tried to come up with a reason to use it. I use Instapaper across my iOS devices, but I never used the Apple Watch app because organizing, deleting, and liking articles with it never made any sense to me.

As watchOS matures, apps that don’t have a compelling purpose are disappearing. This is a good thing, because it leaves us with apps that are better suited for Apple Watch. However, I am thankful that Apple Watch apps like Instapaper existed in the first place, as they paved the way by showcasing functionality or demonstrating how versatile Apple Watch can be—even if the apps themselves weren’t successful.

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