We can thank the leaks and rumors that usually come out months before any Apple’s high end product is announced for no longer having any surprises while the launch. However, this time it’s a different story as nobody saw this coming from Apple, Super Mario’s debut on the iPhone and Pokemon Go’s launch on the Apple Watch.
At its core, Pokemon Go is a game about movement. Players must walk and explore different areas in the real world to capture new creatures. The game logs the distance a player walks while using the app; the game then rewards players for their movement with new Pokemon.
But right now, there’s no way to integrate the game’s walking data into the various iPhone health apps that can tell you about the number of steps you’ve taken or the calories you’ve burned throughout the day. The Pokemon Go Apple Watch app will address this by letting you log gameplay as a workout, integrating a calorie counter directly into the experience. For a game that requires players to move around, and given Apple’s recent focus on healthcare, this seems like an obvious addition.
Meanwhile, the Apple Watch app should help keep Pokemon Go players more alert, cutting down on headlines about gamers who tend to wander into traffic or even crashing into poles. Users will now be alerted whenever there’s a Pokemon nearby waiting to be caught, while they can also grab in-game gear from special real-world locations called PokeStops without having to open their phones at all.
It’s a prime example of the promise of smartwatch apps: Done well, they can free us up from feeling like we need to constantly keep our faces glued to our phones. A major criticism of smartwatches so far is that they lack a “killer app” to justify their typically high cost. To be sure, Pokemon Go isn’t likely to persuade anyone to drop a few hundred bucks on an Apple Watch. But it at least shows how developers can bring games to these devices in creative ways, by leveraging their unique characteristics rather than porting over pint-sized clones of the games on smartphones.