The App Store for Apple Watch features curated collections such as family, travel, health and fitness, creativity, work and communication.
Shara TibkenFormer managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
New Apple Watch owners will have thousands of apps to peruse -- once they finally get the device in their hands.
The App Store for Apple Watch went live on Thursday with more than 3,000 apps, up from the 1,000 cited by Apple CEO Tim Cook in a memo earlier this month. App store analytics company appFigures believes the Apple Watch store will grow to about 100,000 apps within the next year.
By comparison, Samsung has about 3,000 apps in its Gear wearables app store after selling smartwatches for a year-and-a-half. The company on Thursday teased its seventh smartwatch -- this one sporting a round screen -- to drum up developer interest in its operating system.
The Apple Watch App Store features several curated app collections, including family, travel, health and fitness, creativity, work and communications. Other categories include get started, quick-fix games, what's nearby, get the score, learning on the go and savvy shopping.
Any iPhone user can check out the Apple Watch App Store by opening the Apple Watch app that the iOS 8.2 update automatically installed on phones.
Apple Watch hits the market Friday following two weeks of preorders. The device comes in 38 different combinations and ranges from $349 for the aluminum Apple Watch Sport to $17,000 for the 18-karat gold Apple Watch Edition. An iPhone 5 or newer is required to run the device. Apple Watch is the first new product under Cook's leadership and is key to helping Apple maintain its image as an innovator. It also helps the company expand beyond its core smartphone market but sell more iPhones at the same time.
Thousands, if not millions, of consumers are sure to buy Apple Watch simply because it's a new device made by Apple. But to attract countless others, Apple must explain why they actually need a smartwatch. Time has shown that simply having a smart device strapped to the wrist isn't something consumers want, with gadget makers from Pebble to Samsung struggling to find mass market acceptance for their early efforts. Apple is counting on app makers, as well as features such as its Apple Pay mobile payments service, to give consumers reasons to buy its smartwatch.
Watch this: How to navigate the Apple Watch in 10 helpful moves
Apple's iPad tablet and iPhone became popular with the help of third-party software developers, who collectively have created more than a million apps for those mobile devices. Apple in January said App Store developers had earned $25 billion from the sale of apps and games since the store launched.
Apple, at a press event in early March, showed how you'll be able to use the Watch to call an Uber car or unlock your Starwood hotel room door. You'll also be able to check in for an American Airlines or JetBlue flight or turn off your Lutron-controlled house lights with a tap on your wrist. You can also check your bank balance with the Citi app, check your Twitter feed and learn a new language with Babbel.
Apple also has designed its own apps to let you pay for items with Apple Pay, monitor your fitness and activity levels with Activity and Workout, check your email and text messages, control your Apple TV, and listen to your music.
Aside from the nearly two dozen Apple-created apps, none of the Apple Watch apps independently reside on the smartwatch. Instead, they're extensions of iPhone apps, providing users with quick notifications and limited abilities. That's why the Watch needs to remain tethered to the iPhone, via Bluetooth or on the same Wi-Fi network, to run all but a handful of features.
Updated at 6:30 p.m. PTwith information about Samsung's Gear app store.