AmyxMcKinsey/flickr

AmyxMcKinsey/flickr

Apple’s release of WatchKit SDK for app development offers our first look into the Apple Watch’s usability, as well as its limitations.

Apple made WatchKit SDK available with the release of iOS 8.2 in November, enabling developers to create apps and software for the innovative, wrist-worn device.

Looking beyond conceptual apps, however, a new third-party Tesla app designed by ELEKS offers insight into both the capabilities and limitations that developers will likely encounter with the release of the first-generation Apple Watch.

First Insights

Apple CEO Tim Cook said earlier this month that the development of the Apple Watch is on track and that the device is slated to launch at some point in April. The company boldly stated that “Apple Watch is our most personal device ever,” and that WatchKit provides the iOS developer community with the tools to create exciting new experiences “right on your wrist.”

Apple boasts that WatchKit can create breakthrough new apps, use functions such as “glances and actionable notifications,” and utilize new technologies like “Force Touch, Digital Crown, and Taptic Engine.”

A buzz of excitement developed around the Apple Keynote that introduced the world to the Apple Watch back in September, but speculation has grown in the ensuing months as to whether or not the device can deliver on the promises made by its designers. Now, thanks to the early release of WatchKit, some of these speculations can finally be put to the test.

WatchKit’s Clear Limitations

CharlesGoodell/flickr

CharlesGoodell/flickr

Among people avidly awaiting the release of the Apple Watch, there is a fear that “limitations” will be the key word associated with this wearable device. WatchKit was released as part of the iOS 8.2 and Xcode 6.2 beta to provide the tools that create “exciting” new app experiences, but is it all Apple made it out to be?

Talking with MacRumors, [tweetable alt=”[email protected] #app engineers said the #AppleWatch #SDK do not meet expectations, according to @MacRumors.” hashtag=””]ELEKS software engineers declared that the technical capabilities of WatchKit in fact do not meet expectations.[/tweetable] In developing a prototype Tesla app that allows users to control a Model S vehicle with a web-service API, the team found a lot of its functionality thus far unavailable.

“Apple does not indulge developers with an abundance of functionality and tools,” the engineers said. “However, we can hope that the available functions are limited because this is only the first beta version, and it will get much better towards the release.”

The beta version restricts a number of key components, such as the gyroscope, accelerometer, built-in speaker, and microphone, and renders the Taptic Engine system of tactile notifications unusable for development.

That said, it’s still hard to speculate from this initial release if app developers will be able to create the kinds of experiences that Apple claims to be possible with their wearable device.

The Apple Watch represents a new chapter in the relationship between people and technology, and it’s a difficult thing to get exactly right. As a result, it could be tough to deliver on the high expectations Apple has set for this device with the current limitations on app development.

In the face of such limitations, this new app for Tesla demonstrates what is currently achievable with the Apple Watch’s development platform:

ELEKS’ app translates an array of car controls to wrist-based functions, such as an overview of the car’s battery, temperature, and mileage. There’s also a control menu for opening or closing the car and activating the headlights, as well as various modes related to charging, climate, location, and the car’s condition.

Delivering on the Watch’s Promises

The release of the Apple Watch will hopefully be accompanied by improvements to WatchKit that give app makers more freedom in the development process. And yet, unless the platform becomes more accessible and allows full utility of the device’s capabilities, the product could fail to deliver the usability Apple fans have come to expect.

It seems that current evidence points to the need for more freedom within WatchKit’s platform. Apple has provided publicly available design and development resources, [tweetable alt=”Let’s hope that later versions of #Apple’s #WatchKit for #AppleWatch will be less limited.” hashtag=”#apps”]but let’s all hope that later versions of the WatchKit software will feature resources[/tweetable] that aren’t so “limited.”

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