A lot of Apple Watch fans wanted an always-on display and got their wish last year with the Series 5. Others want sleep tracking. Some want a slimmer design without losing any battery life. While I am good with all of the above, what I really want to see next is independence for the Apple Watch. In my opinion, de-coupling the Watch from the iPhone for setup and basic operation is the last major step in the platform’s evolution.
The Apple Watch is getting there. It’s a very slow process, but Apple is gradually adding stand-alone features. We got cellular data a couple of years ago, though it is still fairly limited. Apple’s own apps have been able to stream via cellular for a while. They added Scribble, which allows you to enter text without relying on voice dictation. Last year we got a new on-device App Store, Watch-only apps, and third-party devs got the ability to add streaming via WiFi or cellular. I’m just ready for Apple to rip the bandage off and finish the job.
The Apple Watch isn’t known for being an app platform, but there is untapped potential there and there are some notable exceptions. Some developers actually spend the time to create great apps that are perfectly suited to the small screen and that take advantage of what the Watch can do. One example would be CARROT Weather, which does a great job of presenting up-to-date weather info and notifications with an impressive level of customization available for all Complications.
This week, Pandora stepped up to the plate and became one of the first third-party music apps to add cellular streaming. I’ll be completely honest. I really don’t use Pandora very often at all. It’s been several years since I have. However, I always appreciate when a developer embraces the full capability of a device and adds features that others aren’t bothering with.
I’m sure we will see this independent streaming capability come to other music apps and services soon. A few podcasting apps already have it available. I tried out Spotify today but I was not able to, so I am guessing that they just haven’t gotten around to adding it yet. However, since they ran to the EU last year and cried a river about how mean and monopolistic Apple was not to let them do this before, I’m sure we will see it at some point.
The good news is that, between now and when other apps and services get the ability to stream via cellular on the Apple Watch, you have at least one other option. Hopefully other devs will take notice and set their apps up to take advantage of cellular data for stand-alone operation so that when Apple makes the Watch fully independent, more apps will be ready to work on their own.