Tick tock, devs: WatchKit brings tools for making Apple Watch apps

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Apple Watch supply is finally catching up with demand.
Apple Watch supply is finally catching up with demand.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

As promised, Apple has given third-party developers tools to start making apps for the upcoming Apple Watch. Today the company announced the availability of WatchKit, its new SDK for creating app experiences on the wrist.

With WatchKit, developers will be able to make actionable notifications, Glances “for timely information accessible by an easy, quick look,” and eventually full-fledged apps. Early WatchKit partners like ESPN, Instagram, and American Airlines have already tested the new APIs for future versions of their apps.

A preview of American Airlines' upcoming Apple Watch app.
Photo: Apple

“Apple Watch is our most personal device ever, and WatchKit provides the incredible iOS developer community with the tools they need to create exciting new experiences right on your wrist,” said Apple senior VP of Worldwide Marketing Philip Schiller in a statement. “With the iOS 8.2 beta SDK, developers can now start using WatchKit to create breakthrough new apps, Glances and actionable notifications designed for the innovative Apple Watch interface and work with new technologies such as Force Touch, Digital Crown and Taptic Engine.”

ESPN’s Apple Watch app will deliver live scores, score changes, and team news with actionable notifications. Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom said users will be able to “instantly like a photo or react with an emoji.” Instagram will show a feed of your latest photos with the ability to “follow new accounts and get a real-time view of your likes and comments.”

Wrist-based notifications makes a lot of sense for a company like American Airlines. Pre-trip notifications, updates for gate changes, and now boarding alerts will all be sent directly to the Watch.

WatchKit’s functionality is limited out of the gate. Developers can start making Glances and actionable notifications as extensions of iPhone apps now, but Apple notes that the ability to make fully native Watch apps is coming later next year.

Apple’s new developer website for WatchKit includes all of the resources developers need to start making apps, including video tutorials and a lengthy interface design guide.