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Are Timely Notifications The Key To Apple Watch Apps?

One of the more irritating aspects of some of the first generation smartwatches has been how and when they provide notifications, which is why we feel that timely notifications are the key to Apple Watch apps.

The accessibility and always available aspect of a smartwatch is both a blessing and a curse. It is wonderful not to be burdened by always having to pull out your phone, but is it better to be constantly interacting with your wrist instead?

Now there is the danger of having that relentless chatter of the world, from Twitter feeds to Facebook updates to emails and tweets even more present in our lives because it is right there on our wrist. According to some studies, people check their phone more than 100 times per day. Do we really want to move that level of hyperactivity to a miniaturized screen with limited interaction ability?

Why quick looks?

One of the driving concepts behind Apple’s development of the iWatch was to make things quick and easy. The tech is meant to enhance life rather than have it become a loadstone. Rather than spending minutes for an interaction, the goal should be in seconds.

Plus, it looks a bit silly to be hunched over your phone for minutes at a time. Not every single feature needs to be brought to an apps WatchKit extension because doing so simply doesn’t make sense.

One of the best features of the watch is the aspect of information at a glance. Of course the challenge is that your app only has one screen of information for that single glance. From our idea of limited interaction, the goal should then be to provide everything a user needs in that glance with the option of a one-touch response if needed, and then going back to whatever it was the user was doing.

Think about it, you want a user to actually use the app less, which is an excellent goal. So how do you find the right features and proper notifications when creating a successful app?

Pushing versus pulling

Currently developers are used to making apps that pull information from somewhere to provide it to you. While that is very useful, it also takes time and effort. Ideally the iWatch apps will feature phone apps that instead push important and relevant data to the watch to minimize the burden on the user.

The overall goal needs to be the right information at the right time; a mantra many top developers echo.

Let users focus on the real world rather than being distracted and sucked into their devices. From a sales perspective you would then sell more watches, phones and apps because the user is getting more from their tech and getting information when and if they need it.

So what do you actually need on your wrist?

This is a very interesting question because again, some people will have the desire to try and replicate anything they can that worked at the smartphone level to the smartwatch level. Of course, in our opinion this is a big mistake because of the ideas of more is less and information when you need it.

What we see as valuable would be things like:

  • Health and fitness tracking features – Fitness enthusiasts have often used sport watches to track times for various activities and the smartwatch is a natural extension of this along with keeping track of a multitude of other valuable pieces of information that make sense to view and interact with at a glance.
  • Any applications that can be accomplished hands free – Making payments for coffee, subway or bus passes, a swipe of the watch rather than a ticket to an event or boarding pass, or getting audio directions while you are on a bike are all useful features when you can’t be bothered to dig out your phone.
  • Checking the time – It is a watch after all!
  • Notifications based on time, location and/or activity – Weather updates when you walk outside, appointment notifications, and reminders of things to do as you leave the office at the end of the day or similar ideas make the iWatch useful and helpful. Context sensitive notifications that show up if and when needed are fantastic because they don’t intrude but instead enhance.

The Bottom Line

The true test of a developer who is focused on Apple Watch apps will be to create timely notifications that meet the needs of the user in a real life environment. Remember, if the goal is not to make an extension of the mobile phone or even a mini-phone then the goal needs to be enhancing the users life when they don’t want to have a phone in hand.

So that means being highly selective in regards to the “neediness” of the app, how those needs are expressed to the user and then what the user needs to do as a response.

For example, if you have a news feed or RSS reader at best a reader might scan headlines rather than read full articles. What is the point of that when you have a phone with a larger screen? However it could be useful to have a notification that your favorite author has posted a new story, but that notification is only delivered between certain hours that are designated as times you would actually want to read said story.

That would be useful and helpful without disrupting other activities. That usefulness is key in our opinion which is why we feel timely notification are the key to Apple Watch apps that will be successful.

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