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Apple releases WatchKit developer tools for creating Apple Watch apps & more

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Apple on Tuesday announced the availability of WatchKit, allowing developers to begin creating custom third-party applications, Glances and actionable notifications for the upcoming Apple Watch, before the wrist-worn accessory hits the market in early 2015.

Developers can now begin creating WatchKit apps before the Apple Watch becomes available, along with actionable notifications and Glances. The tools are available along with the new iOS 8.2 software development kit available at Apple's developer website.

A 28-minute-long video is also available at Apple's website, bringing developers up to speed on how they can get started with WatchKit and begin building apps and more for the Apple Watch.

"Apple Watch is our most personal device ever, and WatchKit provides the incredible iOS developer community with the tools they need to create exciting new experiences right on your wrist," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. "With the iOS 8.2 beta SDK, developers can now start using WatchKit to create breakthrough new apps, Glances and actionable notifications designed for the innovative Apple Watch interface and work with new technologies such as Force Touch, Digital Crown and Taptic Engine."

WatchKit apps will come in two parts: A WatchKit extension that runs on iPhone, as well as a set of user interface resources that are installed on Apple Watch. When an app is launched on Apple Watch, the WatchKit extension on iPhone runs in the background to update the user interface and respond to user interactions.

WatchKit also provides three opportunities for developers to extend an iPhone app to Apple Watch: WatchKit apps, Glances, and actionable notifications.

With WatchKit, developers can create notifications that allow users to take action or respond right from their wrist. These include turning the lights off after a user has left their house, quickly accessing flight details at the airport, or rerouting transit when a train or bus is late.

Developers can also incorporate Glances, which quickly show users information they care about most, such as the latest news and sports scores, alarm system status or the next step of a favorite recipe.

"Fans crave real-time and personal information, and the ESPN app for Apple Watch gives us the ability to deliver live scores and information for their favorite teams," said John Kosner, executive vice president of Digital and Print Media at ESPN. "Glances provide fans with a snapshot of live games, and if there is no game taking place, they'll get valuable game-time information or the final box score. With actionable notifications, the experience becomes even more personal, as fans receive alerts on score changes, news and more."

The WatchKit site includes programming guides, human interface guidelines, templates and more. And starting later next year, developers will be able to create fully native apps for Apple Watch, which will not require an iPhone component. Apple Watch will require users to have an iPhone 5 or later.

"Apple Watch allows us to make the Instagram experience even more intimate and in the moment," said Kevin Systrom, co-founder and CEO of Instagram. "With actionable notifications you can see and instantly like a photo or react with an emoji. The Instagram news and watch list allows you to see your friends' latest photos, follow new accounts and get a real-time view of your likes and comments."

WatchKit and the iOS 8.2 SDK are both included in a newly released Xcode 6.2 beta released by Apple on Tuesday. Creating software for Apple Watch requires a membership in the iOS Developer Program.

"The American Airlines app on Apple Watch reminds you when it's time to head to the airport via pre-trip notifications, and provides updates for gate changes, connecting gate info upon arrival, and will notify you when boarding begins if you're not at the gate yet," said John Gustafson, American Airlines vice president of Digital. "Travelers can also ask 'Where am I?' in-flight and get real-time location information at 30,000 ft."