If the apple watch is to succeed like the iPhone or iPad, it needs to be powered by some quality apps. Such apps can only come out from large scale app submissions. But except for a software developer kit Apple doled out months ago, most app developers are groping in the dark. There are many who have still taken the plunge, but with a hand tied to their backs.
Challenges and Limitations in Developing Watch Apps
Developing an app for the Watch comes with its own set of challenges, the biggest of which is grappling with the size and functionality of the device. It’s all about designing for an entirely different kind of user experience. Developers will now have to work with a smaller font size and tinker with colors that may not give the desired contrast to deliver a better user experience.
The experience has to be better because only a better experience can wean customers away from the larger screen of their phones to that of a watch. While Apple’s objective might be to spur innovative thinking into app development, developers in their ignorance, are trying to take a phone app and cram it into a watch.
For the developer, Apple has imposed some limitations which at best can be very discouraging. Some features on the development kit such as the gyroscope and accelerometer have been blocked. Also, the watch simulator cannot be used to test all functions. Other significant limitations include the lack of access to NFC, the Apple Watch’s Digital Crown dial, audio playback, “Force Touch”, the Taptic Engine etc. Developers have even been barred from previewing and remotely controlling a paired iPhone’s camera.
Yes the Limitations Make Sense…
Apple has declined to comment on the limitations, but if we recall how, in 2007, Apple only permitted developers to develop web apps for the iPhone, there is hardly any reason to be surprised. In fact, it is history repeating itself for the first generation of Apple Watch developers.
If Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines for the Watch says that the app built for the new device should complement the iOS app and not replace it, then the limitations only intends to ensure that guidelines are adhered too. For instance by coupling the Watch to an iPhone, the company is experimenting on preserving the Watch’s battery life and resources.
The other reason might be Apple is hell bent on creating a veritable difference in experience. Information on the Watch has to be more concise, actionable and easily consumed. Giving too much elbow room to developers might defeat this very purpose. For instance, a free run might encourage developers to create apps to read articles on the Watch, when the purpose is to browse headlines and save them for later view may be on a larger device. When viewed in this light, Apples new kit is good enough to create an experience which truly weaves magic in the Watch.
While the limitations are here to stay, the developer’s task is well cut out – brush the limiting thoughts aside and wake up to a bigger reality — what users will want in the Watch. Only those who begin to think hard about the business model will out-innovate competitors and win the first mover advantage.