The waning weeks of spring as summer comes into view is one of the best times of the year in mobile. It's not the weather, though that is certainly a perk, especially if you live in a part of the country that has been batting cold fronts, snow, and rain. Beyond the upgraded weather that awaits, Google has its upcoming Google I/O 2019 event, and Apple is prepping for this year's WWDC. We already reported on the former earlier today. So, what's on tap for the latter?
Arguably the most interesting thing to look for is an update to watchOS 6. That may not seem like a big deal on the surface, though what has our attention is Apple is embedding its App Store directly onto the Apple Watch with watchOS 6.
As it stands right now, Apple Watch users must navigate apps on their iPhone or tablet, in order to add any of interest to their smartwatch. However, watchOS 6 will optionally do away with that step. It is a matter of convenience, and also one of independence, especially with some Apple Watch devices (cellular models) being able to fully function without an iPhone nearby.
This is a smart move on Apple's part. The company dominates the smartwatch category, which itself is booming, according to the latest data from The NPD Group. Smartwatch sales exploded last year, increasing 51 percent to $5 billion. The NPD Group didn't break the numbers down by manufacturer, unfortunately, but did state that the Apple Watch was the "clear market leader" last year.
"Over the last 18 months smartwatch sales gained strong momentum, proving the naysayers, who didn’t think the category could achieve mainstream acceptance, had potentially judged too soon," said Weston Henderek, who serves as an industry analyst for NPD Connected Intelligence.
This also plays into Apple's strategy of continuing to grow its App Store. Apple device owners spent $46.5 billion in the App Store last year, which is nearly double what Google Play generated in the same time frame. To keep the momentum going, and to grab a bigger slice of the pie, Apple is planning to launch several first-party iOS apps at WWDC.
Third-party developers may not be real keen on Apple competing with them, but with so much money at stake, it's easy to see why there is so much interest. Part of the concern is that Apple is in position to favor its own apps over the competition. As such, Spotify recently filed a complaint with the European Union over Apple's App Store polices, and how they affect its ability to compete with Apple Music in the streaming music space.
"Developers, from first-time engineers to larger companies, can rest assured that everyone is playing by the same set of rules," Apple said in a recent statement. "That’s how it should be. We want more app businesses to thrive—including the ones that compete with some aspect of our business, because they drive us to be better."
It's not clear what specific apps are on the horizon, though all will be made clear at WWDC 2019. The event runs from Monday, June 3 to Friday, June 7.