Mobile recap: Nokia N1 tablet; Nexus 6 updated; Apple Watch apps

Among the many mobile announcements this past week, Nokia’s may have been the most surprising. Since its phone business was bought by Microsoft, it can’t make Nokia-branded handsets until 2016. It can, however, make tablets, and the company introduced one in the Nokia N1.

 

nokia n1 z launcher

Based on the size, shape and dimensions, the N1 slate looks much like an iPad mini that runs Android 5.0 Lollipop. Nokia’s Z Launcher, which dynamically surfaces shortcuts to the apps you use most, is also part of the software package. Unlike most readily available Android tablets, the N1 is powered by a quad-core 2.3GHz [company]Intel[/company] Atom Z3580 processor. Expect to see the N1 first available in China — where it is built by Foxconn — for $249 in February, with other regions to follow.

Google’s Nexus 6 is already available and so too is the first factory image for the handset. Google posted the download this week so that you can easily restore the phone back to a factory fresh state if needed.

Nexus 6 photo app

The software build is slightly different than the one that initially shipped with the Nexus 6, however. I quickly applied the new build to a review unit and didn’t see any major visual changes. However, the native Google Camera app is far more stable with the updated Android 5.0 software build: While reviewing the phone, the Camera crashed far too often. Since applying the update, it hasn’t crashed a single time.

Although you can’t yet buy an [company]Apple[/company] Watch — it will launch in early 2015 — developers can start building software for the device. Apple released the iOS 8.2 WatchKit SDK this week in beta form.

Apple Watch. Photo by Tom Krazit/Gigaom

Developers initially have three choices when coding for the Apple Watch. Glances are simple informational notifications while Actionable Notifications allow for some very limited user interaction. WatchKit apps are also supported by the beta SDK but they’re not standalone apps. Instead, these are extensions of apps built for the iPhone.

Next year, Apple says, the WatchKit SDK will support apps that natively run on the watch instead of mainly on a paired iPhone. The approach reminds me of how Apple handled software for the original iPhone in 2007. That device only ran web apps, not true iOS applications. A year later, Apple brought support for native iOS apps and the App Store.

One of remaining questions I have about the Apple Watch then is: Will it always have an iPhone requirement?

Upon launch that makes sense since it will get its data and apps from a Bluetooth-connected iPhone. With the addition of Wi-Fi support — it’s possible but unconfirmed that the device will have Wi-Fi at launch — and native iOS apps however, the watch could eventually be a standalone wearable instead of an iPhone accessory; something that could broaden the potential market for it.