TIME Apple

The 1 Big Thing Holding Back the Apple Watch

Apple Watch Goes On Sale At Handful Of Boutiques Around The World
Chris McGrath—Getty Images Hajime Shimada shows off his newly purchased Apple Watch outside boutique store, Dover Street Market Ginza on April 24, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan.

Third-party apps aren't as good as they could be (yet)

The Apple Watch, Apple’s first foray in into the wearable world, is already one of the best smartwatches on the market. But there’s one big thing holding it back.

When you get the Apple Watch, you’ll find it preloaded with a suite of full-powered, Apple-made apps — Messages, Mail, Calendar and more. If those aren’t enough for you, there’s also an Apple Watch app store, already packed with third-party apps from companies like Foursquare, Uber and JetBlue.

However, those third-party Apple Watch apps have a big drawback: They aren’t “native” apps running on the Watch itself. Instead, they’re basically extensions of their iPhone counterparts, with all the code running on your iPhone while the Apple Watch displays their user interface. They also can’t actively utilize some of the Apple Watch’s hardware, like the heart rate monitor.

Read more: Behold the Glory of Unboxing a Brand New Apple Watch

What this means for you as a user is the third-party Apple Watch apps just aren’t as powerful as they could be. That’s a shame, because so much of our digital devices’ functionality comes from full-fledged third-party apps — think about how often you use Facebook or Google Maps on your iPhone.

Still, some of today’s Apple Watch apps make do with the limitations. And Apple has said developers can start making truly native apps sometime later this year.

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that Apple Watch developers can use the time between now and then to experiment and learn about how people use their Apple Watch. Plenty of today’s Apple Watch apps say “we’re here,” but they don’t offer a compelling use case for a smartwatch app (You have to cut developers some slack, though: Many haven’t gotten much, if any, time with the actual device they were coding for). With lots of Apple Watches out in the wild, developers will learn more about how people respond to them and make their apps better down the road. Some developers, however, will learn a painful lesson: What makes a great smartphone app does not necessarily make a great smartwatch app.

TIME Apple

7 Apple Watch Apps You’ll Actually Want to Use Today

Customers look at Apple Watches on display at an Apple Inc. store in Palo Alto, California, U.S., on Friday, April 10, 2015. From London to Beijing, Apple stores saw few customers lined up before opening Friday as pre-orders started. The first new gadget under Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook is selling in eight countries and Hong Kong, with shipments scheduled to start April 24. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
David Paul Morris—© 2015 Bloomberg Finance LP Customers look at Apple Watches on display at an Apple Inc. store in Palo Alto, California, U.S., on Friday, April 10, 2015.

Assuming you actually got one today

The Apple Watch is set to ship today, and assuming you’re one of the lucky buyers actually getting their new wearable sometime soon, you’re probably on the hunt for some new apps.

While truly native third party Apple Watch apps aren’t coming until later this year, there are plenty of Apple Watch apps worth downloading right away. The five apps below are a great place to get started, performing functions that actually make sense for a smartwatch:

Uber

Car-hailing service Uber’s Apple Watch app makes it dead simple to request a pickup where you’re currently standing, which feels very James Bond — assuming Bond needed a ride home from the bar for some reason. Currently, the app defaults to the kind of Uber you’ve got selected on your iPhone (UberX, UberBLACK, UberT and so on).

Dark Sky

The best weather app for iOS is just as fantastic on the Apple Watch. When you’re out on the town and it’s about to rain on your parade, Dark Sky will send you gentle notifications that it’s time to get indoors — or find an umbrella, at least. Dark Sky also gives you more in-depth forecast information when you’re planning your wardrobe for the day.

Fandango

Once you buy movie tickets online or with Fandango’s iPhone app, they’ll appear on your Apple Watch with a scannable code all set for showtime — just flash your wrist, and you’re in. See ya, paper stubs.

Shazam

No more fumbling around your pocket for your phone in hopes you load up Shazam’s music-IDing app before you miss that catchy-but-unidentifiable song. Just let your Apple Watch do the listening for you.

JetBlue

Check your flight status and load up your boarding pass right on your Apple Watch with JetBlue’s app. Plenty of other airlines are boasting similar features, including Delta, American Airlines, WestJet and more.

Starbucks

Craving a venti two-pump vanilla non-fat extra-whip latte? Starbucks’ Apple Watch app lets you find the nearest stores as well as pay for your order via Passbook (Starbucks doesn’t support Apple Pay). You can also see if you’ve got any spending rewards ready to go.

RunKeeper

RunKeeper’s Apple Watch app will let you track your runs while leaving your iPhone at home (unless you want GPS tracking). It’s not clear if RunKeeper will be more useful than the Apple Watch’s built-in fitness apps, but it does boast a feature that blocks all incoming notifications while you’re out on a jog.

TIME apps

This Is Facebook’s Latest Move to Take Over Your Phone

The new Hello app is a Facebook-linked caller ID

Facebook’s newest attempt to infiltrate your daily smartphone use comes in the form of Hello, an app that displays your Facebook contacts’ information on your device’s screen when they call you.

Facebook is pitching the Android-only app as a way to make boring old phone calls a little bit smarter. Hello will tell you, for example, if it’s the caller’s birthday or if he or she is a business contact, as well as display the caller’s Facebook profile image. Those features work even if you don’t have the caller’s number saved in your phone, so long as the caller’s Facebook settings allow people to find their profile via their phone number.

Hello can also help filter out spam calls via an option that automatically blocks numbers frequently blocked by other users, as well as find phone numbers for businesses.

Hello seems simple enough on the surface—it’s a caller ID app at heart—but it also betrays Facebook’s larger mobile strategy: taking over smartphones’ core functions one step at a time. Hello’s introduction comes just weeks after Facebook took steps to turn its Messenger chat software into a full-fledged messaging platform; the company would clearly prefer users chat on Messenger rather than with SMS texting or Apple’s iMessage. Perhaps the earliest incarnation of this strategy, however, was Facebook Home, the company’s now-flatlined effort to more closely tie the social network into the Android operating system.

The idea makes sense: Offering people better apps and services should help Facebook boost user numbers and brand affinity. But if this is indeed Facebook’s plan, it has plenty of rivals. While Apple iPhones come pre-loaded with calendar, mapping and mail apps, many users find they prefer Google’s alternatives. Microsoft has lately been following the same course, recently acquiring popular cross-platform email and calendar apps in a notable break from the company’s former focus on Windows Phone; the former of the two has since been rebranded as Microsoft Outlook for mobile.

Still, the strategy has its pitfalls, as many users choose not to replace or augment their smartphones’ default software with third-party options. For Facebook, Google or Microsoft to be successful here, it has to offer pretty compelling reasons for users to download their apps. While Hello looks useful, it probably won’t see the download rates of Facebook’s primary app. But then again, that’s probably fine for Facebook, which isn’t exactly relying on Hello to be the company’s Next Big Thing—it’s better understood as Facebook’s latest experiment to see how it can get a little bit more involved in your everyday mobile experience.

TIME innovations

You’ll Be Able to Buy Star Wars’ Coolest New Droid

BB-8 will roll onto store shelves

BB-8, the newest droid in the Star Wars universe, is not only real, it’s also coming to your living room.

Sphero, a Boulder, Colorado-based company that makes smartphone-controlled spheres, confirmed Monday it made the bi-spherical rolling robot for December’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s also making a toy version of the character destined to become a fan favorite to rival R2-D2 and C-3PO.

Sphero did not reveal a release date or price point for the company’s BB-8 toy, but it is letting interested consumers sign up for updates through a cryptic landing page.

“The experience is going to be king with this thing,” Sphero Chief Creative Officer Rob Maigret told TIME in a Monday interview. Maigret wouldn’t give away the secret sauce behind what makes BB-8 tick (magnets, perhaps?). But he did suggest the BB-8 toy could revive a fondly remembered part of the original Star Wars experience: Kids begging their parents to buy Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker toys letting them recreate scenes from the movies.

“Our real goal here is that this should feel as close to what you just saw on the screen as possible,” he says. “And the relationships that you’ve seen BB-8 have in the film in the world of Star Wars, you can now fill that role. BB-8 is now yours.”

Sphero has plenty of incentive to make sure its BB-8 toy flies — or, more accurately, rolls — off the shelves. Toy sales are by far the most lucrative part of the Star Wars financial empire. Forbes estimated back in 2007 that action figures and plastic spaceships accounted for $9 billion of the franchise’s sales, more than $3 billion more than the movies themselves. Sales of Star Wars toys are also known to get big boosts when new films (or even remastered old ones) hit the silver screen, so being in the business ahead of the Dec. 18 Force Awakens release is a good place to sit.

Maigret wouldn’t divulge how much of the BB-8 toy revenue Sphero will get to keep, but it’s safe to say it isn’t nothing. Still, while he admits “it would be really nice to sell a gazillion BB-8s,” Maigret thinks it would be “even better” if “a lot of fans [were] extremely happy with what we provided them.”

“We’re fans,” he adds. “For the folks here at Sphero, we’re freaking out. Like, we get to make BB-8? Think about that, man. We get to make it!”

TIME Video Games

Watch the Trailer for the Most Anticipated Star Wars Game in Years

Star Wars: Battlefront is due out this November

Star Wars: Battlefront, an upcoming large-scale multiplayer battle game set in the Star Wars universe, is due out for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC on Nov. 17.

Savvy Star Wars fans will notice that’s just about a month before Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the next installment in the saga’s film franchise. That isn’t an accident — according to Battlefront’s design director, the game will help bridge the story gap between Return of the Jedi and Awakens.

Watch the new trailer for Star Wars: Battlefront above. You can read more about the game here.

Read more: See the 5 Most Important Scenes in the New Star Wars Trailer

 

TIME Apple

Apple Is Offering Classes to Learn How the Apple Watch Works

Apple Watch Goes On Display At Apple Inc. Stores Ahead Of Sales Launch
ChinaFotoPress—ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images A customer touches an Apple Watch smartwatch at an Apple Store at Lujiazui in Pudong District on April 11, 2015 in Shanghai, China.

It's time for school

Some Apple Store locations will be offering workshops to teach new and prospective Apple Watch owners how their new device works.

The classes, first spotted by MacRumors, are being offered at some Apple Store locations in the U.S. and elsewhere beginning April 24, the day the Apple Watch first becomes available.

It’s unclear, however, how many customers will get an Apple Watch on April 24. Preorders for the device started April 10, and many shoppers received shipping dates in May, June and beyond for their device. A recent memo to Apple Store employees from Apple’s head of retail operations suggested Apple Stores won’t be stocked with Apple Watches until June at the earliest. Meanwhile, a page on Apple’s website listing the Apple Watch as available on April 24 has since been changed to remove that exact date.

TIME movies

See the 5 Most Important Scenes in the New Star Wars Trailer

And watch the whole thing

The second teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens dropped Thursday afternoon. Here are five things that stand out (spoilers!):

1. That voiceover is Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, apparently telling his offspring about The Force. It’s unclear which character he’s talking to, but it’s a safe bet this film is about the heroes of the original trilogy (Luke, Leia and Han) passing the torch to a new triumvirate (Finn, Rey and Poe) There’s even an analogy-completing shot of one character handing a lightsaber to another (and it looks just like Luke’s first lightsaber, built by Anakin Skywalker before he fell to the Dark Side).

Lucasfilm/Disney; Gif by Joseph C. Lin for TIME

2. That shot of the Imperial Stormtroopers in front of the red flag? That’s a different logo than the Empire of old—and over to the left, black TIE Fighters! This is a sign The Force Awakens might involve what’s known in the expanded Star Wars lore as the Remnant, a group of Empire loyalists who banded together after the events of Return of the Jedi (But all that didn’t officially happen. Anymore, anyway. Long story.) The shot’s also got a very evil, Nazi Germany vibe.

Lucasfilm/Disney; Gif by Joseph C. Lin for TIME

3. Kylo Ren, the movie’s Bad Dude, still looks super evil. But we don’t know much about him yet. There’s a shot showing somebody unveiling Darth Vader’s destroyed mask—could that be Ren paying homage to a lost hero of the Dark Side? (But that shot could also be Luke paying respect to his dead father, so who knows).

Lucasfilm/Disney; Gif by Joseph C. Lin for TIME

4. The sequence involving Finn’s reaction to a small attack fighter shooting people in what looks to be a ship’s hangar bay feels very telling. My guess is that Finn (who we saw in trailer #1 sporting a stormtrooper outfit) was a stormtrooper who decided to abandon his post after witnessing some kind of Imperial treachery. That would explain why he’s seen running for his life in the first trailer. This theory also fits in nicely with what the actor who plays Finn, John Boyega, said Thursday on stage at Star Wars: Celebration.

Lucasfilm/Disney; Gif by Joseph C. Lin for TIME

5. HAN AND CHEWIE ARE BACK, GUYS!

Lucasfilm/Disney; Gif by Joseph C. Lin for TIME

The Force Awakens hits theaters in the U.S. on Dec. 18.

Read next: This Is the Company Behind the Coolest New Star Wars Character

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Gadgets

Jawbone’s New Fitness Tracker Lets You Buy Stuff While You Exercise

Jawbone UP4
Jawbone Jawbone UP4

Assuming you have an American Express card

Ever get a craving for a protein shake at the gym only to realize you left your wallet at the office? Jawbone’s newest fitness tracker, the UP4, has you covered.

Jawbone’s UP4 fitness tracker syncs up with your American Express card and uses Near-Field Communication (NFC) to let you make purchases via the device, no wallet needed. The UP4 is a result of a partnership between AmEx and Jawbone, so Visa and MasterCard users might be out of luck when the UP4 first goes on sale for $199.99 later this summer.

NFC is the same technology that powers Apple Pay, Apple’s mobile payment software found on the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and the Apple Watch. Apple is positioning the entry-level, $349.99 and up Apple Watch Sport as a fitness device. Jawbone including one of the Apple Watch’s best features — mobile payments — in a cheaper wristband may help it compete with Apple’s new wearable, which goes on sale April 24.

Mobile payments aside, the UP4 is similar to the $179.99 UP3, Jawbone’s recently-released fitness tracker that tracks your activity levels, heart rate, sleep patterns and more. Both the UP4 and UP3 also offer what Jawbone calls “Smart Coach,” software that’s supposed to make fitness recommendations based on what it learns about your activity levels.

Along with the UP4, Jawbone is also introducing a lower-cost fitness band called the UP2. The UP2 packs many of the UP3’s features into a smaller wristband that costs $99.99 and is available now.

TIME Apple

Here’s What It Was Like Buying an Apple Watch Today

You should get hands-on time with one before buying

I just bought an Apple Watch. Please don’t tell my fiancée.

I was pretty sure I wanted an Apple Watch before the presales began at a time so early in the morning there was no way my feeble brain could process it. But I couldn’t justify spending a few hundred bucks on A Very Nice Thing before getting some hands-on time with it, checking out the bands, figuring out what size I should buy and so on. All the Apple Watch permutations result in a much more complicated decision-making process than buying a new iPhone, where there’s only a small number of colors, storage spaces, and, more recently, sizes to choose from.

So instead of preordering an Apple Watch sight unseen, I headed to Apple’s flagship Fifth Avenue cube store this morning to see what the company’s demo process was like.

The first thing that caught my attention was the complete lack of a line. If you’re in New York City on an Apple launch day, you’re typically best off staying as far from The Cube as humanly possible. But because the Apple Watch wasn’t actually in stock today, there wasn’t the blocks-long line usually characteristic of Apple launches (that’s not an accident). There were plenty of other journalists on hand and a certain level of excitement to be sure, but it wasn’t nuts.

I arrived fifteen minutes before my appointment — Apple strongly recommends you have one — and right away got hooked up with an Apple Store employee named Bob, who was waiting by a table full of Apple Watches. Bob asked which models I was interested in trying. I told Bob I wanted to try the cheaper Sport model (which is what I thought I wanted to buy) as well as the mid-level Watch model with the Leather Loop bands (that band looks terrible in photos and I wanted to see if it was better in person. It was).

Bob put the various models on my wrist for me, which was a little weird — I’m (mostly) an adult and I can generally get a watch on my wrist correctly on the first try. I asked Bob if the Apple Watch came with an Apple Employee who would gently attach and remove the device every day for me. Bob said no. This was sad. I bet the people who buy the $17,000 Apple Watch get that.

The various Apple Watches I tried on were running a non-interactive demo loop. That was disappointing. I wanted to mess around with various apps and see what it was like to actually use the device, and I bet lots of other potential Apple Watch buyers do, too. Convincing fence-sitters would probably be a lot easier if they could get some true hands-on time with the device. There were kiosks set up that had more fully-featured Apple Watches, but you couldn’t wear them while you used them, so it wasn’t really the full experience of what owning one would be like.

Apple Watch
Alex FitzpatrickApple Watch Try-On

After trying a few different bands and bodies, I decided my initial guess was correct: The 42mm Apple Watch Sport was the way to go for me. The Sport “Fluoroelastomer” band is surprisingly nice and comfortable, the bigger screen will be better for interacting with the device (but could be off-puttingly large if you’re used to a small watch), and the cheaper price tag means I won’t be totally screwed when the inevitable much-improved version two comes out like three weeks from now.

I told Bob I made my decision, and he pointed me to a kiosk in the back of the store that would let me pre-order my Apple Watch online. I decided to head back to the office instead and placed my order there (see ya, tax return). The official ship day for the Apple Watch is April 28, but Apple says my device won’t arrive until June — the cost of waiting til 11:30 a.m. to order one. But I’ll get it eventually. For now, I’ll just have to keep using my iPhone every time I want to read some WhatsApp notifications. Like some kind of backwards Neanderthal. Sigh.

TIME Apple watch

Katy Perry and Pharrell Have the Exact Same Taste in Apple Watches

Hey Mickey!

A bunch of celebrities are posting pictures of themselves wearing the Apple Watch this week. Among them are artists Katy Perry and Pharrell, who share something strange in common: They’ve both picked the Mickey Mouse watch face for their new wearable device.

Here’s Perry:

❤️⌚️Oh Mickey you're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind, hey Mickey!⌚️❤️

A photo posted by KATY PERRY (@katyperry) on

And here’s Pharrell:

Woah.

A video posted by Pharrell Williams (@pharrell) on

Is this just a coincidence? Will the Mickey Mouse face become some kind of weird status symbol? Is this the work of a shadowy conspiracy group? Only time will tell.

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