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What Every iWatch Mobile App Developer Needs To Know

What does every iWatch mobile app developer need to know before they dive into this exciting new realm? We decided to highlight a few ideas to help mobile app developers because it can be a bit challenging to create apps for such small dimensions.

From Apple’s perspective, the release of the Apple Watch represents a new chapter in the relationship people have with their technology. Are they right? Quite possibly as they have a pretty darn good track record for innovation!

So if you are a mobile app developer, what do you need to know?

What is this WatchKit thing?

Last year Apple released WatchKit, software that provides a set of tools that allows developers an easier way to translate their existing applications into ones that also translate to the wrist.

With a WatchKit app you have two parts: the WK extension that will be running on the iPhone and then a set of user interface resources that are installed on the Apple Watch. Launching the app on the watch then sets the extension to run in the background on the iPhone, providing the updates and response to interactions.

There are three basic aspects available within KW:

  • WatchKit Apps – An app on the watch that has a full user interface from which a user can launch, control and interact with the app.
  • Glances – Read-only information is provided to the user with a Glance.
  • Actionable Notifications – Notification system but unlike Glance users have the ability to take a simple action.

With WatchKit already available, there is a nice base of set building tools and options that cover interface, navigation, and interaction options. While in some cases it is limited as to what you can do, it is still nice to have a specific starting framework to build from.

Limiting Expectations

One of the biggest things to remember about working in this new arena is to limit the expectations of what you are trying to accomplish. That isn’t to say that you should not strive for creativity and ingenuity, but you need to understand the limitations you are working with and design from within those limits.

Ideally you should be trying to create an app that can accomplish one goal and only one goal. The key is to ensure that you do it very well! Because of the limits you have, creating an app with more than a single function is asking for trouble at this point. Also consider what WatchKit is providing which is mostly a framework for things that are about displaying information and providing notifications rather than serious interacting.

After designing intricate apps for mobile devices, a developer needs to take a step back and really strip down an idea to its core function to ensure success on the iWatch platform.

Do and Don’ts of iWatch App Design

So what should you be trying to do and what should you avoid? Let’s look at some of the things successful apps have accomplished along with avoiding pitfalls that have tanked unsuccessful apps in the smartwatch genre:

  • Do – Create a functional extension of an existing app – The concept behind the iWatch is functionality, because how else can you justify the $349 price tag? Designers need to focus on taking an existing application available on the phone and adding simple functions that can be performed from the watch to avoid taking the time to pull out a phone. For example, you could create an extension for the UBER app that allows you to select a car and driver, honing to your current location. Splitting fares or profiles would still be accessed via the phone but for the initialization of the transaction the watch can handle those duties. If you then combine this idea with Apple Pay you could complete an entire transaction without using your phone at all. Other check-in and notification style apps could be extended this way as well such as Foursquare’s app.
  • Do – Create a simple idea that can be executed from the confines of the watch – What are some basic, single function ideas that we might need available on our wrist? Map capabilities with directions or transit points in big cities? Perhaps a simple word translation for travelers both spoken and written? To do lists? Think about one or two touch functions that could be accomplished on a small screen.
  • Do – Create at-a-glance usefulness applications that will save time and energy – Notification apps should be a very strong point for a developer because the iWatch is made for it. Think of bill notifications with an option to pay, appointment reminders, sports score updates for favorite teams, airline flight updates and when you need to leave, or even weather apps. The “Glances” feature is meant to save time. This also goes for following feeds. Obviously titans like Twitter and Instagram are all over this, but you can create other feeds for users.
  • Don’t – Try and do too much at once – Some of the early apps attempted for the Android watches simply tried to combine multiple ideas and functions which resulted in a bloated app that the watch could barely handle or functionality was confusing. You have a very limited number of ways for users to navigate and take action, therefore simplicity is needed in the design process to prevent confusion and increase the usability factor for anyone.
  • Don’t – Release early without proper testing – This should be a no-brainer but needs to be said because there are countless Android SmartWatch apps that have received low reviews because of bugs or basic usability issues and intuitiveness. Rushing to get an app out is never a good idea because if it doesn’t work the reviews will quickly bury it at the store.

There you have it; this is what we feel every iWatch Mobile App Developer needs to know before jumping into the development pool for this new offering from Apple.

How do we know all of this? Well, we are developing iWatch APP’s for one of our clients.

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