Apple Needs a Watch Jailbreak

There was a lot of discussion in my Twitter timeline yesterday — mostly from Zac Cichy — about the importance of the Apple Watch, or lack there of. It centered around the idea that the Apple Watch is coasting, it’s a good product, but there hasn’t been any killer apps or radical new features introduced since the original model shipped in 2015. And while I agree that there hasn’t been much in the way of substantial improvements in the Watch, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

The neat thing about the Apple Watch is that the initial version shipped nearly feature complete. It had third-party apps, complications, a number of watch faces, activity tracking, and more. The device has seen two major iterations that smoothed out the rough edges, but all of the essential features were there on day one. Perhaps that’s the biggest problem.

Maybe Apple should have shipped watchOS 1 without the piss-poor third-party app implementation and spent their time focusing on robust notifications instead. That would have given users something to look forward to and would have allowed Apple to come out of the gate with a rock-solid product. Apple would have been better off if they kept a blow-away feature up their sleeve until watchOS 2 or 3.

Although Apple may have stumbled their way through the early days of the Apple Watch with less-than-stellar implementations of essential features, the Watch is in a really good place right now. watchOS 3 has been an incredible improvement over previous versions of the OS with features like the Dock, fast app launching, activity sharing, and the Breathe app. I don’t feel like there’s anything missing from the Watch.

In a typical day, this is what I use my Apple Watch for:

  • Checking the time
  • Tracking my activity
  • Setting timers
  • Checking the weather
  • Tracking my time performing deep breathing
  • making quick calculations with Siri
  • Quickly replying to messages
  • Controlling media playback on my iPhone

This may not sound like a lot, and none of these features are killer apps on their own, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I wouldn’t continue wearing a device just for a few of these features — which is why the Fitbit never appealed to me — but altogether, they make for a tremendous product.

There was one thought in particular from this discussion that had me wondering if there was some validity to the contrarian view:

I wish the Apple Watch got jailbroken. Remember the amount of ideas Apple was able steal from the jailbreak community with the first iPhone?

The jailbreak community was a treasure trove of ideas for Apple in the early days of the iPhone. Without this vibrant community building unsanctioned apps, the App Store may never have been developed at all. The jailbreak community was the first to develop Wi-Fi syncing, multitasking, custom wallpapers, home screen folders, and even copy and paste.

This leaves me wondering what a jailbreak community could do for the Watch. What new features could they develop — that I might never think of — that would feel absolutely essential the second I see them? One could assume that competing smartwatch manufacturers would be pushing the needle and encouraging Apple to develop new and interesting features, but Android Wear is just as stale and at least one major player is abandoning the platform. Without any competition, Apple needs something else to help them innovate, something that will force them to develop features that they never would have pursued otherwise. Apple needs the Watch to be jailbroken.