Developing apps for Apple Watch

Macworld Australia Staff
29 April, 2015
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Apple Watch, FAQ, macworld australia

The Apple Watch could prove to be a bonanza for developers. But will developing for the watch require new skills? What sorts of apps are good candidates for the Watch OS?

We asked Mike Wehrs, Appster’s Global CMO and Head of US Operations for his thoughts on developing for the Apple Watch.

1        Will developers need new skills to develop for Apple Watch? 

To be able to write seamless and great apps for the Watch, developers will have to upskill. With the ample processing power in

today’s smartphones and the battery power available, a traditional mobile developer does not need to write super-efficient algorithms or optimise for power utilisation. Traditional developers have never had to deal with a tethered processing model like the one required to write for a Watch.  You can think of a Watch as a thin client to a smartphones near-server capability relative to what the watch should do from a computing resource perspective.  These three examples show a clear picture of the additional skills required for a Watch developer to write great Watch apps.

2        What sorts of iOS app functions are best suited for Apple Watch?

Those which fall into one or more of three main categories:

(1)    Those that benefit from more biometric data like health care and fitness related

(2)    Those that have an urgent or frequent reference need such as an alert about a gate change to a flight you are heading to

(3)    Social interaction for those that you want to keep very close to you such as immediate family social network updates.

With those as the base, high interest categories the iOS functions that enable those types of apps span many areas of the OS itself.  Some features like better granular control over the Bluetooth radio will help developers even more as they could be more power efficient when using the data communications features.

3        What new business opportunities will Apple Watch offer to companies planning an Apple Watch app?

Creativity in the App community is incredibly high and having a device on a person’s body gives great opportunity for healthcare and fitness business opportunities.  Any business that benefits by alerting the user in a responsible way to just turn their wrist to see the urgent information are also aided.

4        How much will it cost to develop (or how long to develop) an Apple Watch app? (maybe a range for a simple notification to a interactive app)  

A basic alerting feature is relatively easy to add.  Anything more complex, requires both a Watch app and a sophisticated iPhone app since all the processing and memory intensive portions of a Watch app have to be done on the iPhone or else the performance will be unacceptable to consumers and the battery life will be very heavily impacted.

5        What sorts of apps should developers avoid trying to create for Apple Watch.

Simplicity and very timely relevance is key. Whatever app you build however needs to be designed to leverage the iPhone processing and memory and connectivity resources as much as possible and minimize the use of those resources on the Watch itself.  Avoid creating a complex app that runs on the Watch as the processor requirements will most likely have a heavy impact on battery life. An app which drains the battery life of the Watch will turn users off from interacting with it and in likely cases; users will end up deleting it.

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