Apple Watch won’t officially support native applications until Apple rolls out its watchOS 2 update this fall, but one developer has been able to get UIKit apps running on watchOS 1.0 — the very first watchOS release, which came pre-installed on the Apple Watch at launch.
In existing versions of watchOS, apps are powered entirely by the iPhone, and Apple Watch simply acts as a kind of secondary display. There are a few advantages to this — like better battery life — but also plenty of limitations. It also means most Watch apps are slow.
This will change in watchOS 2, which allows developers to execute code on the Watch itself. However, developers have found that Watch still won’t have raw access to the user interface. But that doesn’t mean it can’t gain access to it.
iOS developer Steve Troughton-Smith has found that with some hacking, Watch has the ability to run truly native UIKit apps independently — without the need for an iPhone at all.
— Steve T-S (@stroughtonsmith) June 18, 2015
Unfortunately, there’s not much the average Watch user can do with this at this point, but it’s pretty impressive how much developers have been able to do in such a short space of time. Later on, we may be able to install truly native apps on our own Apple Watches with some fairly simple tricks.
That’s wishful thinking, of course, so don’t get your hopes up just yet.