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Apple Watch gets new apps, including Facebook Messenger

The electronics giant shows off new apps on the Apple Watch, in hopes they'll entice consumers to try out the device.

New Apple Watch apps like Facebook Messenger will run directly on the device. James Martin/CNET

Apple Watch's new operating system has an official release date of September 16. The smartwatch also has a host of new apps to run on it.

The consumer electronics giant on Wednesday showed off apps including Facebook's Messenger chat app, a GoPro camera remote app and translation tool iTranslate. The new apps will run directly on Apple Watches, a change that takes advantage of updates to the operating system.

Apple said in June that it was changing its WatchKit software, a set of tools enabling developers to create apps for the Apple Watch, to let apps run directly on the device. Previously, all apps had to run through an iPhone, which connects to the watch.

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"Apple Watch is helping our users live a better day," said Apple CEO Tim Cook at a press event in San Francisco.

Getting popular, useful apps on the Apple Watch is crucial for the Cupertino, California, company. When Apple debuted the watch a year ago, it immediately sparked interest in the nascent smartwatch market. But Apple has had limited success as consumers debate whether they need computers on their wrists.

Having meaningful features on a smartwatch would go a long way to convince potential buyers. Meanwhile, rivals from Google to Samsung are jostling to lure developers to their platforms to make the watches that use their software more attractive.

Apple said Wednesday there are 10,000 Apple Watch apps on the App Store. By comparison, there are roughly 4,000 apps available for smartwatches running Google's Android Wear software and about 3,000 for Samsung's older, rectangular smartwatches. The new Gear S2, a Samsung device unveiled last week with a round watch face, will launch in early October with about 1,000 apps available.

Earlier this year, Apple updated WatchKit to gave developers more control over what their software could do with the watch. For example, they got access to Apple's HealthKit platform for tapping into heart-rate data and other activity sensors. They could also use the watch's microphone for voice functions, the digital crown for maneuvering within the software more easily, and the "Force Touch" function for pressing harder on the screen to trigger it to do different things.

See all of today's Apple news.