Apple Watch leans on the iPhone for app management and heavy lifting

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A new hands-on report on the Apple Watch has revealed some new details ahead of the device's early 2015 launch.

Writing for A Blog to Watch, Ariel Adams says the Apple Watch will use a dedicated iPhone app to install watch apps, similar to other smartwatches. But more than just acting as a funnel for data, the iPhone will also kick in some computational muscle. By offloading certain processing tasks to the phone, the watch can preserve battery life.

What it means: Apple has said the watch's battery will last through the day despite being smaller than most other full color smartwatches. Tapping into a paired iPhone's processor could be the secret sauce that helps Apple get there, even with more sophisticated watch apps on board.

Creative differences

Processing trickery aside, the use of a smartphone app to manage watch programs underscores a difference in philosophy between the Apple Watch and Google's Android Wear.

With Google's platform, Android Wear functionality is supposed to be built into the existing apps on your phone. When you download the Delta smartphone app, for instance, you're immediately able to launch the watch version to access your boarding pass and flight information. The idea is that users never have to think about managing a second set of watch-specific apps.

At least that's how it works in theory. The problem is that many developers have created their own standalone smartwatch apps—including calculators, flashlights and games—which you can download like any other app through the Google Play Store. While these apps aren't all bad, they do nothing on your phone except take up space. And with no easy to way to manage watch-specific apps, it's easy to lose track of them in the sprawl of the Android app tray.

The Apple Watch appears to be following the path of Pebble and Samsung's Galaxy Gear Line, requiring users to manage a separate group of apps for the watch. This is more of a burden compared to the ideals of Android Wear, but at least it gives users a greater sense of control.

For more on how the Apple Watch will differ from Android Wear, read up on our smartwatch reality check.

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