Apple is doubling down on apps for the Apple Watch, giving the device its own native app store and launching several of its own new programs.
With the new app store, Watch wearers can download new apps directly to the device without the help of an iPhone, Apple said. The new app store displays a scrollable list of available apps, and when clicked, they drill down to a details screen with descriptions and reviews.
And there are now a number of new apps to download.
The Watch gets its own Voice Memos app that syncs to an iPhone for later access, an Audio Books app, and a Calculator app (including tip calculations).
WatchOS 6 adds a new fitness trend tracking feature to the Watch. The feature tracks nine key metrics (like walking frequency) over 90 days or 365 days. If you’re trending downward on some metrics, the app offers custom coaching tips to get the user back on track.
Apple also built its own menstrual cycle tracking app for the Watch with Cycle Tracking.
Apps have been a tricky thing for the Apple Watch ever since the product launched in 2015. At first, Watch apps required a nearby iPhone to function, and they remained clunky and slow even after Apple removed that restriction. WatchOS 3 seemed to de-emphasize standalone apps as Apple focused more on rich notifications and fitness features, but the company has been steadily moving back in the opposite direction since then, in part because it now offers Watches with built-in cellular connectivity.
The new apps and store suggest that Apple is more confident in the Watch as a standalone computing device, and sets the stage for new hardware (perhaps with longer battery life on cellular networks) this fall.
Apple said it is making a new streaming API to developers so that they can build Watch apps that stream podcasts, music, or sporting events.