Apple released the watchOS beta version 4.3.1 to developers a few days ago. The version number suggests that it’s a minor update to the Apple Watch operating system. Its build number is 15T5535b. The new watchOS beta includes a message that warns users that older apps would not be supported on “future versions” of the software. The alert is a clear indication that Apple could drop support for the watchOS 1 WatchKit apps from the upcoming watchOS 5 that would run the Apple Watch Series 4.
People who have installed the new watchOS beta get a warning upon launching the legacy watchOS 1 apps that these apps would become incompatible with the future watchOS versions. Apple also encourages developers to update the app to “improve its compatibility.” Tapping the “OK” button on the alert takes you into the app, which runs normally for now. It means the watchOS beta 4.3.1 still supports the older apps.
Back in November last year, Apple told developers that it would stop accepting updates for watchOS 1 apps in 2018. Since April 1st, the company requires developers to use the watchOS 2 SDK or later to update existing apps. Anyone developing a new app for the Apple Watch will have to code with watchOS 4 software development kit or later, said Apple.
The tech giant hasn’t yet announced when it would end support for watchOS 1 apps, but industry experts believe it would drop support with the watchOS 5, which would be unveiled at the WWDC event in June. The alert appearing in the latest watchOS beta is similar to the alerts in iOS 10 that warned users that Apple would end support for 32-bit apps. It also encouraged iOS developers to build 64-bit apps. The company eventually dropped support for 32-bit apps with iOS 11.
Dropping support for watchOS 1 apps would be a step in the right direction. The watchOS started its journey as a baby platform that was heavily dependent on the iPhone for almost everything. The watchOS 1 apps were ridiculously slow, and they relied on your iPhone via Bluetooth connectivity. Apple introduced watchOS 2 in 2015, and prodded developers to use the watchOS 2 SDK to build apps.
Apple added LTE connectivity to its wearable devices with Apple Watch Series 3. It allowed customers to use the Apple Watch independently of the iPhone. Even though the Apple Watch user base continues to expand, many leading app developers have been removing their apps from watchOS. Apple sold more than 18 million Apple Watch units in 2017, and the sales figure is only expected to improve this year.
Earlier this month, Instagram abandoned its Apple Watch app instead of rebuilding it with the watchOS 4 SDK. Instagram said the user base was too small to justify the development costs. The Apple Watch is increasingly becoming an independent device. So, there is a good chance developers would see value in developing apps for the Apple Watch or updating their existing apps.
The Cupertino company is preparing to launch the Apple Watch Series 4 later this year. Apple hasn’t changed the design of its wearable device from the original model. But KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts that the Apple Watch Series 4 would come with an all-new design. Its display would be 15% larger than the last year’s model, and it would offer a bigger battery life. Though the upcoming model would retain the squircle shape, Kuo says it would have a “trendy design.”
It’s not yet known whether the Apple Watch Series 4 would keep the crown and the hardware button or replace it with a gesture-based interface. The rumor mill claims that the next-gen Apple Watch would feature a selfie camera, though there is no scope for the Face ID technology.
Apple is pushing into health and fitness tracking with the Apple Watch. The upcoming Watch is expected to have new health sensors. Ming-Chi Kuo claims it would be capable of determining the “axial orientation” of the user’s wrist with the help of specialty sensors to detect more activities. Last year’s Series 3 came with activity detection, an Activity app, and an improved heart rate monitor.
The Apple Watch Series 4 is expected to debut in the second half of this year. It will likely be priced in the same range as its predecessor, which costs $329 for the WiFi only version and $399 for the cellular + WiFi model.