The highly anticipated Apple Watch is set to hit the market on 24 April and many developers have announced apps for the new device, including big names like Instagram, CNN and Shazam.
New opportunity for “unheralded” apps
A report by Strategy Analytics, called ‘The Apple Watch: A Fundamental Change in the App Market’, looked at the first 65 apps that were announced, and found that “unheralded” categories such as travel, health and fitness and communication, which “have struggled to be seen as more than a utility,” will see a rise in popularity thanks to the device, which may mark “the beginning of an important market shift” for them (click to enlarge picture below).
The report says that the early success of the Apple Watch – it is estimated that 957,000 people in the US pre-ordered an Apple Watch on the first day – “will bring new attention and investment” for these apps, and their developers “will face new opportunities and competition requiring increased investments.”
The gaming category on the other hand will experience “a steep decline from more than 50 per cent of the most popular applications downloaded overall to just 5 per cent of early Apple Watch apps,” creating new opportunity for less popular categories, says the study.
Of the 43 Apple Watch apps listed on the company’s US website, only two are games – Rules! and PlayKids. The UK website has two more: Best Fiends and Peak.
On the other hand, travel and lifestyle apps dominate: TripAdviser, Citymapper, Expedia, Wunderlist and Things, to name a few.
Currently, travel apps such as those developed by hotels, airlines and OTAs represent just 1 per cent of all sessions and 3 per cent of the most popular app downloads in the US, according to the study, but travel apps represent 15 per cent of the first slew of apps announced.
“The categories likely to benefit from the Apple Watch will finally be able to offer a new form of convenience and differentiation. As a result, lesser utilised and downloaded categories which are focused on lifestyle augmentation and intermittent convenience will be in direct alignment with the Apple Watch’s use case and see increased usage and reliance,” the study says.
Author Joshua Martin believes these companies “will be forced to integrate applications more tightly with their short and long term strategy, product development, and marketing in order to resonate with Apple Watch owners.”
News organisations want a piece of the action
Top news organisations are hard to miss on the list of apps on Apple’s website. The New York Times app says users will be able to swipe through breaking news and short stories crafted specially for Apple Watch, while CNN offers breaking and developing news across 12 personalised categories.
According to Re/code, media companies “are betting the Apple Watch will create greater enthusiasm for up-to-the minute updates, as well as hoping apps for the device will fare better than their attempts on the iPad.”
Martin told Re/code that “news has not been the most popular category…. A lot of the categories that are underutilised on the phone seem to be likely to flourish on the watch.”
Mobile devices account for nearly half of CNN’s digital traffic and news organisations know they need to get on board from the beginning.
Games not to be left behind
As for the future of games on the watch, the managing director of Stick Sports, Paul Collins, said the company is not interested in developing games for the watch, but is excited at the prospect of using the device as a controller for a game being played on the smartphone.
However, gaming has not been put on a back burner, despite the limits of playing on a small screen.
Though it was only earlier this month that Apple asked third-party developers to submit WatchKit apps, over 100 new games are expected to be available for the watch when it begins shipping Friday.
One of the more exciting ones is Runeblade by Everywear Games, described as “the first fantasy adventure on a smartwatch”.
Founder Aki Järvilehto told Wired that the company “radically simplified the game play experience and is targeting a five to 15 second game play session.”
“Playing games on a smartwatch is a very different experience from tablets or phones. We wanted people to feel like it’s something effortless, fun and integrates well into your daily routines,” he added.
Another game to look out for is Spy_Watch, which centres around “real-time notifications between you and your agent in the field that are sent and delivered via Apple Watch’s intuitive interface.”