Apple CEO Tim Cook: ‘Native apps will be killer for the Apple Watch’

Third-party apps that run natively and can gather data directly from the Apple Watch’s own sensors will unlock the wearable technology’s true potential, claimed Apple chief executive Tim Cook.

Speaking to analysts on a conference call yesterday evening (21 July), Apple’s boss said the arrival of the device’s first software update would give developers the chance to build “richer and more powerful” apps.

A key issue many had with the first wave of apps on the device was that some felt like extensions of their smartphone apps because they were not able to access sensors like the heart rate monitor, accelerometer and taptic engine.

“We've already announced the next operating system watchOS 2,” said Cook. “It will bring native apps which are going to be killer to the Watch.”

Apple set the plan in motion last month when it handed coders its new developer kit to launch their apps in the fall. At the time, the improvements were billed as providing Apple Watch users with better, faster information because computing tasks would actually take place within the third-party apps.

Moving forward, third-party apps for the watch will gain features like video playback as well as access to the speaker and its HealthKit tools.

That Cook took the time to trumpet the potential of native apps belies the importance of a broader and richer app roster to the device’s long-term growth. Some 5,500 new apps have been introduced in the three months since the watch launched with around 3,000 watch-compatible apps. It pushes the total figure to 8,500, though this represents less than one per cent of the over 1.5 million iPhone apps now in the App Store.

Despite reservations from some analysts over how well the watch had sold, Cook insisted that was far from the truth as the business was able to fulfil demand once it actually went on sale in retail stores. The only data available is from researchers Slice Intelligence which claimed that orders had plummeted 90 per cent this month since its April launch. While Apple has opted not share exact figures on the watch’s sales, the company’s chief said its initial performance was higher than the iPhone and iPad during those launch periods.

“The contribution from Apple Watch accounted for well over 100 per cent of the growth of the category and more than offset the decline of iPod and accessory sales,” said chief financial officer Luca Maestri on the same call.

A more expansive marketing strategy, which eschewed the technology’s tried-and-tested of appealing many to die-hard fans to instead appeal to the luxury and sports categories likely had an impact on the early performance.

“The feedback from Apple Watch customers is incredibly positive and we've been very happy with customer satisfaction and usage statistics, said Cook. “Our own market research shows that 94 per cent of Apple Watch owners wear and use it regularly, if not every day.”

The watch’s performance emerged as one bright spot a quarter that disappointed analysts. Apple’s iPhone sales jumped 35 per cent in the three months to June to 47.5 million. However, this was short of the lofty 48.8 million units analysts had tipped the business to sell.

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