Making a Killer App for Apple Watch: Challenges and Opportunities

Apple revolutionized the mobile phone industry with the introduction of the iPhone. Apps revolutionized how people interacted both online and offline creating a new industry just for app development. But when it comes to building apps (let alone killer apps) for the new Apple Watch, things get a little tricky.

Apple Watches take smart wearables to the next level, but with a small screen to play with, it creates unique challenges for developers. If you pay attention to the UI design guide, you can see that apps won’t have to be just supplementary to iOS, they can also be apps that stand alone. But at the moment, what you can do with this new gadget is restricted.

Before developing an app for the Apple Watch, ask yourself if your current iPhone app has notifications that are pressing for users. Further, does the app have any useful information that can be displayed on a small screen? Finally, ascertain if users check the app regularly for small bits of information.

When embarking on developing a new app for this revolutionary wearable device, you have to pay attention to the unique challenges and opportunities that will arise.

Apple Watch SDK is Restricted

The buzz on the forums is that there will be another gold rush with the Apple Watch. Although it is possible that the next billion dollar company like Instagram and Whatsapp is around the corner, it seems highly unlikely with the first generation SDK.

The current SDK that’s out is very limited and this is because Apple doesn’t want you to do too much. The main reason for this is because Apple wants consumers to use the apps for only 15-20 seconds at a time. This is to preserve the battery life of the Apple Watch (which isn’t that good).

The second generation of hardware and SDK can resolve these issues and may create new opportunities with a better product. However, it will probably take a year before we see any significant changes.

Screen Space is Limited

To build a killer app, you have to be able to create an app that is both adaptable and thrives within the constraints of limited screen space. As user input and interactions will also be basic and limited, it may also have to be tethered to an iPhone to operate effectively. Read about software development company in Chicago.

Always keep in mind that the interaction with the watch will in short bursts of activity. As a result the first incarnation of the watch creates opportunities for apps relating to the stock market, credit cards transactions, and banks. These tiny bits of data are important to users (just like the weather and time).

With the small screen, the interactions will also be different from the phone. So try to bundle all the actionable content to fit in one glance. Also avoid getting the user to tap for more information while using small real estate to get the message across.

Simplification Isn’t Easy

To build a successful Watch app, it’s important to simplify your app as much as possible. This can be a challenge as complicated layouts and rendering are banned. Always remember to simplify and develop a mobile app that is a minimal version of what you are offering on an iPhone.

Simplifying the process requires you to go through each page of your iOS app and figure out if it’s important enough to be added to the Watch app. Keep the most important details right on top as users are unlikely to keep scrolling. Further, the small the screen size, the faster they will expect it to load. This in turn creates an opportunity to make the backend processes simpler. Not only will it improve response times, it will make the whole user experience better by focusing on quick access to top functionality.

Right now, we can only predict what the future holds for the Apple Watch. Although Apple has been having a steady stream of 20 developers a week checking out the Apple Watch before the official launch, there is still limited information on what’s going to be possible. We will have to wait and see how this wearable device and apps evolve in the coming months.

In my next blog post I'm going to interview one of those 20 developers admitted by Apple for pre-testing apps dev on Apple Watch upfront of the rollout. We'll talk about how he got handpicked by Apple, how Apple's security is handled and what are his general impressions of testing the Watch apps at Apple's HQ. Sign up to our blog updates to read the interview!

IT Storyteller and Copywriter
Andrew's current undertaking is big data analytics and AI as well as digital design and branding. He is a contributor to various publications with the focus on emerging technology and digital marketing.