Day of reckoning looms for old, slow Apple Watch apps


watchOS 1 app warning
Opening a watchOS 1 app on a device running that latest beta of watchOS 4.3.1 gets this warning.
Graphic: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The latest watchOS beta warns that support will end soon for applications that haven’t been updated for years. This is part of an ongoing push by Apple to get all third-party apps that were written for the first-generation Software Development Kit updated to something more recent.

Unfortunately, this drive is instead causing some developers to drop their out-of-date Apple Watch apps.

When opening an application designed for watchOS 1 on a device running the recently-released watchOS 4.3.1 beta, a warning pops up that says “This app will not work with future versions of watchOS. The developer of this app needs to update it to improve its compatibility.”

Apple has not yet announced which future version of watchOS ends support these legacy applications. It could be as soon as watchOS 5, which is expected to debut this fall with the next-generation of Apple Watch devices.

Phasing out watchOS 1 apps

The writing has long been on the wall for the original Apple Watch Software Development Kit. Starting April 1, Apple stopped allowing software written for the watchOS 1 SDK to be updated on the App Store. Currently, applications need to built with watchOS 2 SDK or later for updates to be allowed. New apps have to be built with the fourth-generation SDK.

Instead of updating their software, many developers chose to take down their apps, with Instagram leading the pack. It’s not clear why this is happening, as Apple Watch beat all its competition in Q4 of last year to become the top-selling wearable worldwide.

Good for Apple Watch

Applications still using the watchOS 1 SDK were originally written in 2015, and are very out of date. They were created when Watch apps were heavily tied to an iPhone, with many non-functional when out of Bluetooth range of a smartphone.

The whole vision for Apple Watch changed with watchOS 2. Applications became more independent, able to function on their own. That has increased with the two succeeding SDK generations.

And that’s the change Apple wants developers to make with their legacy applicationss. It’s unfortunate that some would rather pull their apps.