Apple Watch Apps for Music (Education, Performance, etc.)

Last night I broke down and purchased an Apple Watch.  You can finally purchase them at an Apple Store, and the Apple Store at the Mall of America has most of the models in stock (apparently, there are only a few stores in the country that sell the gold model).

As much as the Stainless Steel model appeals to me, it costs $200 more, and a recent article discussed how the glass screen (Apple Watch Sport) was actually better than the sapphire screen used in the Apple Watch or Apple Watch Edition in daylight.  As a result, I bought the cheapest 42mm watch I could purchase (space grey) with the 2 year Apple Care protection.  I think I will be ready to upgrade in two years.

There has been a lot written about the Apple Watch, and really, Jim Dalrymple’s recent review has pushed me over the edge with the purchase.  I need an external motivator to start getting in better health, and a Fitbit isn’t going to do that for me.

Yes, there are some different interactions with the watch that take a few minutes to learn.  There has been a lot of griping about the watch not being on “instantly” when you lift your wrist (it is almost instantaneous), as well as the sync time between the watch and various apps.

What you have to understand about the Apple Watch is that (for now, until Watch Kit 2.0 in the fall), it relies on the iPhone for data, so you have a temporary lag as the watch updates.  That said, it isn’t a long period of time, and I still wait for some web pages on computers longer than I have to wait for the Apple Watch to sync.

What is weird, for musicians, is that under Watch Kit 1.0, developers cannot utilize the Watch’s speaker or the haptic touch sensors in the back of the watch.  Therefore, things that would seemingly make sense on the Apple Watch (e.g. a metronome that taps you with the tempo instead of playing it) can’t be done.  You can get a piano app on the watch, but you need Bluetooth headphones or your iPhone to hear it.

My main use of the Apple Watch will never be for music purposes…I have larger devices for that (in fact, I hardly ever use my iPhone for music purposes–98% of my work is done on my iPad, and the other 2% is done on my MacBook).  So I want to make it clear that I didn’t buy this Apple Watch specifically for use with music–but that doesn’t mean that I’m not interested to see what it can do.

When you buy your Apple Watch, the Apple Watch App syncs all of the apps that you have on your iPhone that also have Apple Watch programming.  For me, this included apps like Feedly, The Weather Channel, and so on.As you download other apps (on your iPhone) that have Apple Watch programming, they are added to the watch.  Unlike the home screen with a permanent grid of the same apps, the Apple Watch apps appear as little “tiles” on an ever-growing sphere.  You can move apps (and delete them), but in general it isn’t too hard to find the app you want.

So far, I have downloaded about five iPhone apps that have Apple Watch programming included.  A quick search of the App Store will yield a number of metronomes, which mainly allow you to control the tempo and on/off from your Apple Watch–but still play through your iPhone.  I have also downloaded one Piano, one music game, and a version of GarageBand (not from Apple) called “Watch Band.”  These apps pretty much summarize what is available on the Apple Watch for musicians at this time.

Each of the apps requires the iPhone to produce sound (although I am told that you can attach Bluetooth headphones to the watch and listen that way–but you will never do that in front of a class).  Basically, these Apple watch apps simply run an iPhone app.  Fully functional, independent apps (that don’t need an Internet connection) will come with Watch Kit 2.0 this fall.

The apps I have tried:

You can watch the video I made showing these apps on the Apple Watch below.

Additionally:  Here is a list of other metronomes I did not download.  As you can see, it won’t be long before the App Store is flooded with apps (just as there are hundreds of metronomes on the App Store).  So for this brief moment in time, this post represents a nearly summative list of all Apple Watch apps that can be linked to music education & performance.  Again, functionality and performance will improve with Watch Kit 2.0 in the fall.

Other apps that might be of music-related interest: