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Developing for Apple's Watch - What Lies Ahead
Wearable Tech World Feature Article
December 12, 2014
Developing for Apple's Watch - What Lies Ahead

Since Apple’s (News - Alert) Watch announcement in September, consumers and tech companies alike have been buzzing about the upcoming product and what it will mean for the Internet of Things and, in turn, our everyday lives. With Apple’s recent release of WatchKit, the true potential of the Apple Watch now shifts from Apple’s hands into developers’.

A Watch’s limited interface – both in size and functionality – is a completely new frontier for developers. This uncharted territory proposes myriad opportunities for developers but also new, substantial challenges. In addition to pressure from consumers’ expectations, companies across industries are banking on Apple Watch to push wearables into the mainstream. This pressure is by no means new. From interaction and connectivity with other devices, to security concerns, slow learning curves and poor consumer adoption, there are plenty of reasons other smartwatches have flopped. For Apple Watch, it will be up to developers to get it right.

It’s true that Apple has the advantage of a devoted fan base, but as consumers everywhere await  Apple Watch with high expectations, the first impressions its applications make on consumers will be vital to their and the product’s survival. Before consumers can use Apple Watch to check into their hotel or draw a hot bath on their walk home, developers will have to tackle some core challenges:

Increased device interaction complexity

Just as developers encountered new cross-platform challenges with two different screen sizes for the iPhone (News - Alert) 6, and 6+, they will be faced with a third, and much smaller form-factor. Due to Apple Watch’s format, it will likely require a new set of apps and widgets. Not only that, but Apple Watch isn’t a stand-alone device and will therefore largely depend on push notifications from the iPhone. This dependency increases the number of interactions developers must account for and therefore, the complexity of the interactions.

Increased reliance on cloud/connectivity

The strength and weakness of Apple Watch lies in its dependency on the cloud and connectivity with other devices. Consumers will enjoy having the world at their wrist, but this comes at a price. The more cloud services and devices apps rely on, the greater room for error. On average, apps currently depend on six cloud services. This means not only the app and device need to be functioning smoothly, but the multiple services they depend on must also be available and work appropriately.

High expectations for functionality

Over the past decade, Apple has successfully gained exceptional consumer trust. With this trust comes high consumer expectation that all products will be reliable and high-functioning. For the most part, this has been true thanks to Apple’s maintaining a closed and controlled ecosystem. However, recently, and especially with its Watch, Apple is increasingly opening up their borders. Only time will tell if the company’s brand reputation will suffer from fragmentation issues due to this opening up.

In addition to these challenges, Apple Watch will present developers with opportunities previously only dreamed of. On a micro level, developers get to tinker with their products and new functionality to see what is stickiest with consumers in their particular app. But on a macro level, developers are getting first-hand insight into the transformation of consumers’ interaction with technology – how much will people trust the tech? What do they want most from it? What functionality do they want most that they’re not even aware of? In one product launch, Apple will do some very heavy lifting to bring IoT into the mainstream. This is a hugely exciting time for the mobile industry and developers get to be at the forefront of this exploration.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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