Apple Watch Game Changer, Music Expected At WWDC

Apple Watch owners may no longer be as tied to their iPhones, thanks to a new application kit the tech giant is expected to unveil during its Worldwide Developers Conference next week.

The kit will help developers make applications for the smart watch, including games and other programs, that will be native to the device and have greater access to its sensors, Apple operations chief Jeff Williams confirmed during a ​recent conference.

A major drawback of the Apple Watch is that it must be within Bluetooth range of an iPhone or on a Wi-Fi network to maintain a wireless signal, so the new kit “is a huge deal,” says Ramon Llamas, a research manager with the International Data Corporation’s wearables and mobile phones team.

The goal of the watch is to present people with simple notifications in a way that’s more convenient than accessing their phones, but the kit could help open the door to complex apps for the watch that aren’t even available on the iPhone, he says.

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“If it’s an app that is going to bring in data, you will need your phone, but this kit will open up the chance for new kinds of standalone apps like games,” Llamas says. “I would love to see a golf swing app. Through the magic of sensors it could tell me how my swing comes together; if it’s good or bad.”

The developer conference, which focuses on new software rather than hardware like phones, will likely also debut the latest version of Apple’s operating system – iOS 9 – which will also streamline application maintenance, says John Jackson, vice president of mobility research at IDC.

Apple is still facing delays, however, with its plans to announce its new streaming music service, which is expected to cost users $10 per month. The tech giant is still negotiating contracts for song rights with record labels, which are jockeying for Apple to pay 60 percent of its monthly subscription rate – slightly more than the 55 percent Spotify pays the labels from its $9.99 monthly fee, Bloomberg reports.

Apple will still likely unveil the new service on Monday with a preview of what is available so far, but the success of the service will depend on what music will be available for free, Llamas says. Spotify, for instance, offers music on demand for free along with the paid subscription that allows people to skip advertisements.

When searching for online music, 81 percent of U.S. Internet users said the most important factor was whether songs were free or inexpensive, according to a 2014 study by Wells Fargo and Pandora.

“I’m a bit skeptical why people would people want to pay $10 per month, given that there are other services offering music for free,” Llamas​ says. “People like things with the Apple brand, however.”

The conference will likely not feature any announcements about Apple TV, since negotiations over a contract to provide online video to the company’s set top box are ongoing, Bloomberg reports. The tech giant is in talks with broadcasters including ABC, CBS and Fox to provide a Web video service that aims to offer 25 channels, according to reports.

Apple has repeatedly mentioned health and smart home applications during its recent public announcements, so it will likely showcase new updates on those features for developers, Jackson says. Retailers have been slow to adopt the company’s mobile payment system, Apple Pay, so the company is less likely to showcase updates to that feature, he adds.

“Health had the limelight with the watch launch, so look for a show of momentum behind home and auto, specifically with new features and partner announcements,” he says. “I expect that they will not say anything terribly substantive about Apple Pay as the adoption rates look like a slow burn.”

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