Apple adds background audio support for watchOS apps

There wasn’t much podcast related news at WWDC this year. The headline figure is that Apple now has 555,000 active shows (of course it is still unclear how “active” is defined) which is up from 525,000 in April. I think they might have Anchor to thank for that boost in numbers. TechCrunch has a decent write up of the rest of the news.

There is one thing that doesn’t seem to have been widely reported that I think is the most interesting thing announced. With watchOS 5, third party developers can now play background audio on apps running on the Apple Watch. Which is a huge deal for podcast apps that aren’t made by Apple. Previously the APIs offered to third party developers were not enough to create even a half decent playback experience on the Watch (which is why you don’t see a Pandora or Spotify Watch app). For those who want to understand a little more, Marco Arment has detailed the reasons why building a podcast player on the phone was impossible with the previous versions. Now watchOS 5 addresses most of those concerns. It will be interesting to see if people want to use their watch for playing podcasts.

The video of the session “Creating Audio Apps for watchOS” from WWDC 2018 should be available soon.