Not so long ago I wrote an article describing some IT products and why they weren't as successful as they might have been. The Apple Watch was listed there as well. However, some of my friends remain particularly happy with their purchase (despite the lowest price being $299) and one girl wears it 23 hours a day (evidently sleeping with it on her wrist which I can't but find unnatural and somewhat spooky). That's why I tried to give this device one more look in order to see if it has a future and more importantly whether it is worth developing new Apple Watch apps.
Since its launch in April 2015 the Apple Watch has been gaining popularity, especially if you compare it to other companies' smartwatches. But figures show that Apple sales dropped on this device in the second quarter of 2016 and the company shipped 1,6 million smartwatches. Although it meant an overall year over year decline for Apple, it managed to outdo its competitors like Samsung (600.000), Garmin together with LG and Lenovo (700.000) and other companies (600.000 combined). So it doesn't look that bad, does it?
Rain on parade
Nevertheless, a lot of users criticised the Apple Watch for not being fast enough. Some apps on Apple Watch need to grab location data, also notifications and constant heart rate measurements slow the smartwatch down. But the main reason is that many Apple Watch apps are simply skins for those installed on your iphone and each time need to address the phone itself.
One more concern is that these slimmed-down versions of iphone apps only show information without giving you the ability to fully work with it on the watch and, as a result, still make you fish out your phone from the pocket.
A way out
This certainly points to the fact that the future belongs to native Apple Watch apps specially designed for it. Fortunately, at this year's WWDC it was announced that third party developers would be able to get into the act. So it is definitely a good time to start creating your custom Apple Watch applications.
If we are talking about smartwatch apps, they must be simple enough but at the same time functional. Such gadget will give you new ways of accessing information and change how you do habitual things like cooking, driving or attending meetings.
Good apps for Apple Watch should be not only faster but also more convenient. Remember, the better application you create, the more loved the Apple Watch will become, thus more and more people will want to have your app. In other words, it's in your interest to study people's likes and hates concerning the Apple Watch in order to find out what they are looking for in an application. And here's what I managed to learn.
Ideal smartwatch apps are...
...easy to access and fast at performing their core function. For example, it takes only one click to order a Hailo and a quick Force Touch to instantly cancel it.
...able to work in places where you can't take your iphone to. Slopes app allows users to record their stats (like detailed speed, altitude and distance) while skiing or snowboarding down the mountains.
...optimized for the Apple Watch screen, like Cruncher which is an alternative calculator designed for those whose big fingers make it difficult to type the right number on their small smartwatch screen.
...subtle and don't attract unnecessary attention. Whether a person uses the Apple Watch in a shop or checks how his favourite team scored during the meeting using Onefootball app, it goes pretty much unnoticed by the surrounding people.
… awfully essential when you need to be in constant control of all the updates, schedules and changing details. With Slack notifications coming directly to your wrist you will never miss them again. It also concerns situations when you're driving or walking in an unknown city using Citymapper and need to follow directions all the time, or when you're at the station or airport. For example, British Airways app informs its users about departure and arrival times, local weather, then urges travellers to check in at the right place and time and has a countdown to takeoff. In addition, Passbook works as a boarding pass at security and the gate.
… within reach when people need them. Answering calls when your hands are busy as well as when the iphone is too far (or too deep in the bag) becomes extremely easy. Shazam app helps to immediately see the song's title and lyrics without getting your phone and finding out that there is already the next one playing.
… extremely helpful for people with disabilities. Following directions through gentle wrist-taps is becoming one of the best ways for certain citizens to move around. Sending touches or heartbeats from wrist to wrist is how a person can easily attract attention in situations when calling out names is useless.
A different story
When designing a watches app it's important to understand that a smartwatch is not the same as a smartphone. It looks, feels and works differently.
The Apple Watch comes in two sizes 38,6×33,3 mm and 42,0×35,9 mm, so the screen is practically a square. This feature should be kept in mind if you want your application to appear natural. For example, many people adore that Instagram photos look on their Apple Watch as if they were originally made for it.
When developing apps for a smartwatch one of the main peculiarities is the existence of the digital crown. Moving upwards and downwards can become quicker as well as more convenient because the finger doesn't obscure the screen. iTranslate, for example, allows scrolling through translations using Time Travel and quickly moving from "Good morning!" to "Good afternoon!", etc.
The Apple Watch also has Force Touch which can work like one more button and be used as another way of controlling your application.
Visibility is of utmost importance as well. Make the text big enough for users to read it and avoid putting too much of it on screen. Use high contrast colors as well as easy-to-read fonts. This way you are sure to make the app more attractive.
Finally, the Apple Watch architecture allows applications to have three view states: main view, glances and notifications, so make sure to plan how everything should be displayed in each of them in order for it to be of utmost convenience to users.
In other words, do your best to plan your app carefully taking into account these peculiarities of the Apple Watch design and features.
What the future holds
It seems to me, the Apple Watch still has a long way to go and it is certainly too early for it to replace the iphone. However, it can already augment it in many interesting ways. At the same time, I really see now that the Apple Watch is a promising product and will evidently earn even more popularity among users all around the world.
One more thing is certain. Creating a custom smartwatch app is definitely worth trying. I do hope that some of these ideas inspired you and prompted possible directions of the Apple Watch app development.
Rather than making just a simplified version of some cool apps for Apple Watch, you'd better place a bet on originality as well as give people what they are looking for in terms of functionality and design. This way you are likely to win over Apple Watch users and become a success. And in case you are looking for someone to discuss your idea and help you turn it into reality, our team will be eager to give you a hand and find the best solution.