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How developers are making apps for an Apple Watch they haven't seen yet

Caitlin McGarry | March 9, 2015
The Apple Watch is designed to make you healthier and help you communicate more easily, but those lofty goals can't be attained without apps to back them up. Apple has its own apps in the works, like Workout and Activity for fitness-tracking, but the company needs popular iOS app developers to extend their services to Apple Watch. The company rolled out the WatchKit SDK in November to guide programmers and designers through the process, but I was curious: How do you make an elegant app without ever having seen the watch in person?

Not just a smaller iPhone app

Starwood Hotels & Resorts has the advantage of being a preferred Apple partner — the hospitality company worked with Cupertino to roll out Passbook with iOS 7 and has a similar role for the Apple Watch launch. We caught a glimpse of what Starwood's SPG app will look like at the Watch reveal back in September, when we found out that the Watch will unlock SPG hotel room doors.

The keyless unlocking function isn't exactly new: Starwood added the feature to its iPhone app, which I saw in action at the W New York in downtown Manhattan back in November. Stephen Gates, Starwood's vice president and creative director of global brand design, told Macworld that the company has experimented with Android Wear, but could only make the contactless door unlocking work on Apple Watch.

"To be able to do something like keyless entry, which works very simply and seems like magic, there's a huge amount that goes into the programming and security," he said. "The Watch is the most robust [wearable] platform we've seen so far."

Gates declined to say what the Watch app's other marquee features will be, but hinted that we'll see geofenced notifications and crucial information will be available at a glance.

"The watch isn't just a smaller version of our iPhone app," he said.

We're expecting to see more Watch apps and their features on display at Apple's "Spring Forward" event on Monday. Check back at 10 a.m. Pacific/1 p.m. Eastern for the Macworld live blog straight from the event and complete coverage of the Apple Watch launch.

 

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