The Apple Watch Is Great, Just Not With Apps

It’s still impressive for everything else

Key Takeaways

  • Uber’s Apple Watch app seems to have been discontinued. 
  • Some developers are starting to realize that Apple Watches don’t make the best standalone devices. 
  • But the core functionality of the Apple Watch still has enthusiastic fans.
Someone wearing an Apple Watch that displays the message that the Uber Apple Watch app is no longer available.

Lifewire / Sascha Brodsky

Don't try calling an Uber using your Apple Watch. 

The Uber app for the Apple Watch seems to have been discontinued. I tried using the app on my Apple Watch Series 7, and I got the warning, "Please switch to the Uber mobile app. We no longer support the Apple Watch app. Sorry for the inconvenience," along with a crying emoji. It may be a sign that some developers are starting to realize that Apple Watches don't make the best standalone devices. 

"When it comes down to it, the Apple Watch isn't really for apps," Aaron Glazer, the CEO of Taplytics, a mobile app marketing company, told Lifewire in an email interview. "The Apple Watch has finally refocused on what it's best at, which is fitness tracking, telling time, and receiving notifications. There are basically no apps outside of these core use-cases that get any real use."

No Rides?

There's still an Uber app listing in the Apple App Store, and Uber did not immediately answer a request for comment. But outlets such as Mac Rumors have also noted that the Uber app isn't functioning. 

The Uber Apple Watch app has been available since 2015, but it has fewer functions than the iPhone app. The app did not support uberPOOL, fare splitting, ETA sharing, or contacting an Uber driver. 

Uber ended the support for its wearOS version of the app in 2020. And Uber isn't the only company to backtrack on its Apple Watch ambitions. The ride-hailing company, Lyft, discontinued its Apple Watch app in 2018

Glazer said many technical reasons why making apps for the Apple Watch has always been a tricky proposition.

"Apple severely limits the APIs you can use, the communication between the app on your phone and watch is super slow and buggy," he added. "There are also restrictions when it comes to CPU use, which makes it very hard to do anything outside of just displaying data."

Given the limited functionality of Apple Watches, users are still required to integrate with a phone to reap all of the benefits, noted tech entrepreneur Omri Shor in an email interview. "As such, users are still returning to their smartphone to utilize its full functionality, thereby making the Apple Watch a limited offering." 

"It's amazing how much more in control of my day I am when wearing this watch."

But the Apple Watch Is Still Great

Apps may be dropping off, but the Apple Watch's core functionality still has enthusiastic fans. 

The Apple Watch has been a total game-changer to people facing vision loss due to common conditions like macular degeneration, glaucoma, or diabetic retinopathy, Doug Walker, the head of research for the Hadley Institute for the Blind Visually Impaired, told Lifewire in an email interview. It provides a convenient way to keep track of time when seeing a clock face has become difficult or to record a quick reminder to yourself when you can no longer make out handwritten notes.

Walker recommends and personally uses the watch's reminder app, the timer app, and voice memos. He's also a big fan of a new feature Apple calls "haptic time," which tells you what time it is through a series of tiny vibrations.

"It's amazing how much more in control of my day I am when wearing this watch," Walker said. "And because it's voice-activated, teaching others with vision loss how to use it is so much simpler, too" 

Someone using a smartwatch after an exercise session.

Nico De Pasquale Photography / Getty Images

Shor said the actual value of the Apple Watch is in healthcare. 

"It is giving patients more insights into their own healthcare or allowing them to easily and passively share the health information they choose with their physicians or other caregivers, like sleep, heart rate, or medications," he added. 

Personally, I love my Apple Watch Series 7 for reminders and notifications. But whenever I have tried using standalone apps on the watch, the experience has been frustrating. 

Before the Uber app stopped working altogether, I tried hailing a ride on it many times. However, my Apple Watch always thought I was trying to phone someone named 'Uber.'

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