Apple Watch: New Possibilities For App Developers

May 26, 2015

9:00 pm

While buyers anxiously wait for official sales to get started in June, app developers are equally anxious about the next Apple Watch update, rumored to provide them with more tools and options when it comes to displaying content.
Watch OS 1.0.1, released on May 19th, contained numerous bug fixes to third-party apps, considering the amount of user complaints Apple Watch has received at the initial stage.

“I was trying to use the Uber app, which was seemingly frozen — until it wasn’t. Suddenly it was ordering me car after car in what seemed like a digital-age version of the “I Love Lucy” candy factory episode. (Frantically tapping the watch face, I was ultimately able to cancel the vehicles),” — writes Stephanie Rosenbloom from The New York Times.

Developers on the other hand, have expressed a number of complaints as well when adapting their existing products for Apple Watch or trying to create new apps. Nick Lee and Markiyan Matsekh from Eleks named “latency” as one of the biggest problems with Apple Watch. Developers will need to minimize the number of UI update calls if they want the app to work smoothly. Animation is not displayed properly either, which was already emphasized by Rosenbloom. A partial solution to the problem could be replacing the animation with image sequences.

Apple Watch creates new interactions that cannot be seen in any other device, thus developers have to make the best use of the watch unique features, rather than trying to adapt an existing iPhone app to a smaller screen.

“We have faced a major problem when it comes to Digital Crown haptic dial and button. While the wearable has a touch screen, it could also be controlled by a haptic control, in a form of a turnable button on the side. Now, the problem is, developers don't have access to it and can not create apps supporting this functionality,” — points our Dennis Shpakouski from Intellectsoft.

Among the other most common troubles, developers name numerous UI restrictions influencing the aesthetics of app design; one-way communication between the watch and the phone, meaning the phone cannot ask for the data stored on the watch and different icon standard for different watch sizes and non-timely location sync between the watch and the phone.

Things are about to change with another Apple Watch system update to be rolled out soon, as 9to5Mac insider sources say. The company will open another special feature named “Complications” — a series of small information features to be found on the watch display. For example, a small Complication might display the number of unread Twitter mentions, while a larger view might show the text of a the Twitter mention. Currently, this feature is only supported by Apple native apps like weather, battery or calendar. Users can choose which Complications appear on the watch main screen by tapping the screen, turning a haptical button and scroll to their preferred choice. Afterwards, just raising one's wrist will activate the choice and display Complications with up-to-date information.

“I’m incredibly excited about the possibility of Complications, both as a user and a developer,” — David Barnard, Founder of Contrast told Fortune. “While Glances are nice for quick access to apps/information, they still require a swipe up to access and often require swiping back and forth to find the right one. It’s kind of ironic actually, that they are called glances. Complications, on the other hand, offer truly glanceable access to information.”

Image Credit: Shinya Suzuki//Flickr


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Dianna is a former ESL teacher and World Teach volunteer, currently living in France. She's slightly addicted to apps and viral media trends and helps different companies with product localization and content strategies. You can tweet her at @dilabrien