On the front page of Sunday’s New York Times travel section, Stephanie Rosenbloom tells a story about the first time she tried to order a Uber ride through the company’s Apple Watch app. The app seemed to be frozen — until it wasn’t.
“Suddenly,” she writes, “it was ordering me car after car in what seemed like a digital-age version of the ‘I Love Lucy’ candy factory episode.”
Welcome to the world of first-generation third-party apps, the ones giving the Apple Watch a bad name. I’m not the only early user who’s complained about how slow and buggy they seemed.
Now, thanks to Marco Arment, we know why.
Arment is a rock star among app developers. He created Tumblr, Instapaper and what may be the best podcast app on the iPhone: Overcast.
But even he needed two tries to get it right. The first version of Overcast for the watch was a disaster, and he thinks he knows why. It’s not the tiny screen that is the challenge, he explains in a blog post that’s getting a lot of attention this weekend, it’s the load time.
To simplify the code and reduce the workload on WatchKit’s fragile data connection, Arment rebuilt the app from the ground up, re-structuring it around the screen that gets used the most: Now Playing. As he explains,
Apple, whose Podcast app pales by comparison, could learn a lot from Arment. So could Uber.