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Facebook releases new Apple Watch app for messaging friends

Facebook has released a new app, giving users the chance to keep in contact with close friends over the Apple Watch.

The app, called Kit, stands for Keep in Touch. Once users scan a QR code on their Apple Watch, they'll be able to message contacts from the Watch without needing to grab their iPhone.

Kit users can send their contacts voice messages, location information, or an emoji all from the Watch interface. There's also a handy speech-to-text feature, making it easy to respond to messages, though Scribble is also available.

It works somewhat similarly to the way that iMessages already works but is designed to use Facebook's Messenger service. The only benefit is that it allows iPhone users to message those without an iPhone via the Watch, provided both parties use Messenger.

Facebook does offer some Apple Watch functionality via Messenger, but that still functions via the app installed on the linked iPhone. The Kit app is installable without needing a companion app on an iPhone.

The logic is that the app should be able to help during the COVID-19 pandemic as many people are trying to touch their phones less — though to use Kit, users will still need to touch their Watch physically.

Kit was first spotted by TechCrunch, is Facebook's first NPE Team app for the watch. Facebook's NPE Team — short for New Product Experimentation Team — designs small and highly focused apps, with the intention of finding out what features people find useful or engaging.

Facebook has a history of developing experimental apps, though many of them have not taken off. Lifestage, Slingshot, and Poke — three Snapchat clones — were abandoned, and the company's defunct Research app, also known as Project Atlas, had been banned from the App Store for scooping up private data from 187,000 users.

Facebook has said that because the apps are experimental, they will "change very rapidly and will be shut down if we learn that they're not useful to people."