Apple Watch Development Sneak Peeks & Secrets

The Apple watch is changing the way people do things and solving some of those pesky first world problems. I’m looking forward to seeing who’s calling without having to dig through my purse. Oh, and switching tracks during a run without having to fool with an armband.

When Apple releases a new device, it always has a HUGE impact on developers. It’s great new market with lots of new opportunities. Developers have the chance to build something amazing.

Getting in early with the Apple Watch will give you a leg up on the competition. In this article, we’ll talk about what you need to know to get started.

The Apple Watch is basically an extension for the iPhone. But that doesn’t mean that developers will be limited in what they can do.

There are already tons of cool Watch app ideas that change the way people shop, travel, exercise, and communicate. Some developers have released interesting demos like:

  • Pipes. Lets you track subjects you’re interested in via keywords and trends.
  • Home Remote. A home automation app that unlocks doors and controls lights.
  • Slopes. This app is essentially like Runkeeper for skiers and snowboarders.

If you’re interested in developing an Apple Watch app, study the market to see what’s possible and look for opportunities. A good place to start is to check out watch apps in the Android Market for inspiration.

Fitness, productivity, entertainment, and communication apps are popular among Android Wear users. Communication apps like WhatsApp and list apps like Todoist consistently top the charts.

Keep your eye on the top developers

Retailers are excited about Apple Pay with the Apple Watch. They’ve been looking forward to a quick, convenient, seamless payment system and now its here. Now you can pay for purchases with a wave of your wrist.

iwatch retailersMany retailers also use location-based apps to interact with customers in new ways. Target has developed an Apple Watch app that will detect when wearers are in the store and guide them towards items on their shopping list.

Other leading merchants such as Expedia, Fandango, and eBay have developed geo location apps to make it easy for users to access important information like show times, flight, and other reminders.

Heavy hitters like Uber are using the Apple Watch to take their services to the next level. Users can get real-time updates and information with just a glance at their wrist.

If you’re in eCommerce, or looking to get into it, Apple Watch users are the ideal target for your product. Keep up with what the major players are doing to stay on top of the latest Apple Watch app trends.

Learn Apple Watch development basics

If you’ve built iOS apps for iPhone or iPad, there will be many similarities. But there are also some differences to look out for.

For starters, the Apple Watch has a much smaller screen.  Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines gives a full report including, the 38mm model with a resolution of 272 x 340 and the 42mm model with a resolution of 312 x 390.

Apple refers to the Apple Watch display as “Retina,” and tells developers to use 2x image assets. We’re already used to this especially after the iPad retina and iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.  Icons will have variable sizes based on screen size and type. There’s a handy chart in the guidelines.

Apple asks developers to be mindful of certain concepts when creating Apple Watch apps. They suggest that all apps should be lightweight and optimized for brief, frequent use on a small screen.

Remember that Apple can weigh in our your app’s success based on how well you’ve followed their development instructions.

Notifications also work slightly differently. Short-look notifications are briefly visible while long-look notifications provide more details. Successful developers are taking advantage of new gestures like glances to help users quickly access important content.
Developers area also mastering communication between the iPhone and the Apple Watch. Most Watch code has to be written as an extension of an iPhone app to save power. Apple says that developers will be able to create fully native apps later next year.

For now, Apple has blocked some features, including the gyroscope and the accelerometer. That means that more possibilities will open up for developers down the road.

Making money with Apple Watch apps

This is an exciting new space for advertising and monetization strategies. You’ll have a smaller audience, but Apple Watch users will generally be more affluent.

The Apple Watch is designed to be a deeply personal device. It collects and stores data about the wearer. Advertisers can use this information to improve targeting and tailor ads to specific users.

There are lots of ideas out there about how the Apple Watch will continue to work for advertisers. Concepts like surfacing coupons when a customer walks by a store could be interesting. Will it be effective or annoying? We’ll see how these ideas translate to revenue.

Jump in now while the technology is in its infancy

It may take a while to fully realize what this technology can do. By jumping in now, you can get in on the new frontier. Not many people have actually held the device in their hands yet. When it’s released, it will be easier to develop awesome apps.
The field is currently wide open for developers. The possibilities are almost endless. Your app can be whatever you imagine it to be. There isn’t a lot of competition right now, so a killer app that grabs attention will be able to penetrate the market quickly.

Tell us about your plans for the Apple Watch in the comments section.


  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas April 1, 2015

    Its official. Apple Watch will be available to customers April 24th. Pumped!

  • Tyler April 1, 2015

    Carter, what sort of games might translate well to the Apple Watch?

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas April 1, 2015

    @Tyler – good question. Off the top of my head, I’d say memory/learning games – you see an image and have to identify it or maybe something like simon says. Some ideas I think would be super cool:

    – Travel integrations. Automatically sync with your phone and Apple (or Google) maps to be able to create a live story of what you’re doing. Check out what these guys are doing:
    – Fitness integrations. This seems like a no brainer. Walking, altitude, heart rate.
    – Productivity tracking. Make it super easy to measure time spent doing tasks with alerts.
    – Finance. Real time stock alerts + actionable moves. With the emergence of zero dollar trading, you could be trading stocks on your wrist.
    – Events. No more scanning barcodes or ticket lines. Everything is on your watch, including alerts.
    – Social networking. Create small private networks and get a heads up when someone is close by
    – Sports. Wear your watch while you compete, automatically sends information to your friends and social networks

    I think the big winners on the watch platform are going to be platform unique – things that you can’t really do on your phone. I would imagine a lot of that is based on movement and weather, or maybe just people who don’t want to carry their phone.

    Next level is going to be integrating the watch into games in terms of real life meets virtual world. Take those mystery games where you have to find the object – imagine if it was “Find the sandwich place with the yellow sign and the cat in the window” or scavenger hunt type rewards. 2nd Life becomes 1st life. Or something.

  • Tyler April 9, 2015

    Thanks for the reply, Carter! The reviews coming in on the Watch are interesting – there is a steeper learning curve than usual for Apple products. The better reviews, in my opinion, focus on how iPhone notifications have gotten overwhelming and a Watch wearer needs to spend time to craft notifications into a workflow that works well for that person.

    I’m interested to see how Apple Watch development progresses, but I myself have little to no interest in actually buying a Watch at this point. Spending all my coins on a new laptop, as my 2011 Macbook Air is aging. I am leaning towards the 13″ Macbook Pro Retina. Little heavier than an Air, but love the screen and the power.

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