iOS 8.2

Debugging Apps on Apple Watch

With iOS 8.2 beta and WatchKit, we now have a way to create apps (sort of) for Apple Watch. With Apple Watch not actually going on sale until some time in 2015, developers can only test their apps in the Watch simulator on their Mac.

This isn't the first time developers are tasked with creating software for a device they haven't seen in person. In 2010, developers began writing apps for iPad which, at that time, wouldn't ship until months later.

There's nothing wrong with this approach. In fact, it's great that Apple gives early API access to developers so their apps will be ready on launch day.

One issue we encountered while testing on iPhone OS 3.2 was we had little knowledge of the original iPad's performance capabilities. We over-estimated what that device was capable of. Software that ran smoothly in the Simulator on a Mac with access to, at that time, a blazing-fast dual-core Intel CPU ran slow and choppy on the iPad's A4. Surprise.

With iOS 8.2's WatchKit, it's a little different this time around. Instead of running native apps on the Watch, we're only able to create extension-like software that runs primarily on iPhone. By using the iPhone's processor, Apple is able to maximize Apple Watch battery life. In addition, WatchKit doesn't yet allow for the creation of full/native Watch apps as you would think of them for the iPhone.

Native Apple Watch apps are coming sometime next year, most likely at June's WWDC. And that's when the Watch Simulator won't be enough and developers will need to test their apps on an actual device. 

So how will that actually work? With iPhone and iPad app development, you connect your iOS device to your Mac and run a project in Xcode. But, the Apple Watch doesn't have a Lightening port.

While it's somewhat of a mystery, my best guess is Xcode will bring back wireless device testing. It was a seldom talked about feature in Xcode 5 that took some tinkering to enable, but it used to be possible to wirelessly test an app on an iOS device without connecting it directly to your Mac via USB. At some point, it seems, the Xcode Team removed the feature as I can't find any trace of it in Xcode 6.1.

The possibility of wirelessly debugging an app on a device that I don't have to plug in to a computer is enticing. I would also imagine any content syncing to the device will be done wirelessly through iTunes.

If that's true, this is one developer that hopes wireless testing/debugging is supported for all iOS devices, not just the Apple Watch.