Apple Encouraging Partners to Build Custom Apps for Apple Watch

Apple has been working with companies like Facebook, Starwood Hotels and United Continental Holdings to allow them to have their own Apple Watch apps ready when the smartwatch is launched.

Apple watch, smartwatch, apps

In preparation for April's Apple Watch launch, Apple has been secretly working closely with a wide range of companies to help them prepare their own custom apps for the new smartwatch when it hits the market.

Large companies, including Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW vehicles), Facebook and United Continental Holdings, have been spending weeks getting up-close looks and help to work with early Apple Watch models so that they can prepare their own business-focused apps for consumers, according to a March 5 report by Bloomberg. The sessions are being conducted at Apple's Cupertino, Calif., headquarters, according to the report, which was based on anonymous sources who were under nondisclosure agreements.

No papers or smartphones, which have built-in cameras, were allowed to be brought into the session rooms to get early glimpses of Apple Watch, its components and its software requirements, the story reported.

Apple is holding a special event on March 9 when it will likely provide more details about the upcoming Apple Watch smartwatch, which is slated for an April release, according to an earlier eWEEK report.

The private app sessions for Apple Watch developers include other security safeguards, including Internet access that's blocked inside the rooms and requirements that any source code for the apps must be brought in "on a computer hard drive that can't leave Apple's headquarters," a source told Bloomberg. "To prevent information from leaking out, Apple is storing the code and sending it to the companies closer to the watch's introduction date, the person said."

The long-awaited Apple Watch was announced in September 2014 at an Apple new product event, along with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones. The Apple Watch screen is controlled by touch, by arm movement and by the "crown"—the circular wheel button on the side that traditionally was used to wind a watch. The watch, which must be used with an iPhone to get full usability, can do everything a smartphone or laptop can do, just on a smaller scale.

The April release of Apple Watch was announced by Apple CEO Tim Cook on Jan. 27 as part of the company's record-breaking first-quarter 2015 earnings call, which touted $74.6 billion in revenue and $18 billion in net profits for the first fiscal quarter of 2015 due to a surge in demand for Apple's latest iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones. Cook said at that time that the development of the upcoming Apple Watch was "right on schedule" and that his expectations regarding the wearable device "are very high."

The watch will start at $349, though additional pricing information has not yet been announced. Apple Watch is expected to arrive in three versions: a sport version in polished or black stainless steel, a standard anodized aluminum model, and a luxury edition in rose or yellow 18-karat gold.

Recent reports have said that the premium versions of Apple Watch could cost $5,000 to $8,000 or more, depending on their materials. A recent Forbes article described a scenario in which the gold used in a premium version of the watch could cost $850 to $1,200 alone, which could push the overall retail price of the device to $5,000 or more.

Earlier in February, however, Apple Watch made news for some features that won't be included when it is finally released. Apparently, the smartwatch will be missing previously touted key health-monitoring features due to problems getting them to work and potential regulatory issues, according to reports.

Instead of a state-of-the-art smartwatch with capabilities to monitor blood pressure, heart rate, stress factors and other health issues, the coming Apple Watch won't have any of those features at its debut because of reliability and complexity issues that arose, according to an earlier eWEEK report.

The lack of those features is certainly a far cry from the initial promise of Apple Watch, which was originally touted to be a mobile health-monitoring device, a timepiece and a device connecting to a user's Apple smartphone, all in one. The missing health-monitoring features, however, could certainly be included in future versions of the device.