Apple has begun displaying warnings about legacy watchOS apps in the watchOS 4.3.1 betas, 9to5Mac reports, suggesting that watchOS 5 may in fact drop support for original watchOS 1 WatchKit apps entirely. The move is similar to the warning dialog discovered last year in iOS 10.3 signalling Apple’s intention to discontinue support for 32-bit apps — a move that was made when iOS 11 shipped last fall. At the report points out, it’s also interesting that the latest watchOS beta has been numbered 4.3.1, despite it being released alongside iOS 11.4 and tvOS 11.4 betas, suggesting it’s a considerably more minor release.
Apple warned developers last fall that it would cease accepting updates to watchOS 1 apps after April 1, 2018, requiring all updates to be rebuilt using at least the watchOS 2 SDK, but noting that new apps should be built with the current watchOS 4 SDK. Apple has not pulled watchOS 1 apps from the App Store as of yet, although more than a few major developers have dropped Apple Watch support, including most recently Instagram and Twitter, perhaps as a result of being faced with the choice of rebuilding their watchOS app or simply removing it.
It’s worth noting that watchOS 1 apps were extremely limited compared to the native apps that were introduced with the watchOS 2 SDK. Early Apple Watch apps were literally just second-screen extensions of the iPhone, relying on an active Bluetooth connection and performing very poorly. The watchOS 1 SDK only lived for about six months before Apple debuted native Apple Watch app capabilities in watchOS 2, but many simple apps have remained from that era. Apple’s continued efforts to untether the Apple Watch from the iPhone have meant that users running watchOS 1 apps have found themselves with considerably more limited functionality, since such apps are completely useless when you wander out of Bluetooth connectivity range of your iPhone — even on an LTE-capable Apple Watch Series 3.