In an era where people value the necessity of having a digital and powerful device within immediate reach, “bigger is better” does not seem to hold much relevance today as it did decades ago. For this reason, we have seen techy devices getting smaller and smaller by the year. And just recently, these items are not only diminutive; they serve a dual purpose as an accessory as well hence the moniker “wearable.”
Today, modern technology has gone into an era where minuscule and nondescript items may hold the prowess of your everyday desktop personal computer. It has pushed boundaries and tapped on modern and evolving trends where something as simple a watch or a piece of eyewear could hold so much unlimited potential. To fully enjoy the advantages of having these smart devices, they are complemented by a smartphone.
If you happen to be an Android app or iPhone app developer, then this should already be a go signal for you to make the necessary overhauls on your existing applications. Should any of your app users be buying this complementary device and find out you have launched an application that is in no way compatible with it, you will be left with frustrated customers. Eventually, these customers will contemplate on downloading another application similar to yours to favor their smart accessory.
Waste no time and start the essential revamps on your applications and websites today. Let this article serve as your guide to the many existing platforms currently in the market today, what you can do to each of them, and how to develop corresponding apps or companion services.
OF WATCHES AND SMART ACCESSORIES
A custom version of the ever-popular Android OS exclusive to smartwatches, Android Wear has a fully capable OS and works best as a phone companion. Connection through the web is mainly achieved through the phone’s connection. (Several devices now support Wi-Fi networks so leaving the phone out of range wouldn’t be so much of a burden). For the accessory to work, it needs to be paired with an Android 4.2+ phone.
Not to be outdone by Android, Apple released its very own line of smartwatches to the market a year after. Given the name “Apple Watch,” Apple sold as many watches in one day as their counterpart did in one year. Though similar in initials, both watches differ in what its OS offers to the user. The Apple Watch runs on watch iOS which is the OS for the watch. In its watch OS 2.0 version, apps can directly run on the smartwatch with extensive native feature access.
Samsung also has its corresponding smartwatch run by Tizen, which is a relatively new OS from Samsung for mobile devices. Gear Live is also available which is based on Android Wear. Gear S is a completely standalone accessory as it has its 3G cellular connection and can be paired with a Galaxy Samsung device. Gear S2 has both Wi-Fi and 3G versions with the latter having a GPS chip.
The premier and frontrunner of successful smartwatches in the market, the Pebble started simply as a crowd-funded project and claims to be the thinnest and lightest smartwatch the world has today with its latest version, the Pebble Time Round. Pebble works both with an iPhone or an Android phone. A phone is necessary for network communication when an app is running on the watch.
Though it is not exactly a watch, the features are more or less similar to one. On-device apps are not supported, but iOS, Windows Phone, and Android apps can send “tiles” to the device’s tiles. Information will then be shown on its screen.
SHAPING A WEARABLE APP
A novice mistake in the development of wearable apps is thinking that shrinking a current phone app into the small screen is a sufficient wearable experience.
Wearable apps should be tailored and custom-made for micro-interactions and for the necessities a user might need exactly when they need it. In essence, the app you develop should be comprehensive enough to include all the vital features that a user might need on their watch. However, it should not be too inclusive of the smartphone’s application features that users would no longer find the apps on their phones necessary.
To let a wearable app work to your user’s advantage, think of it as a complement to the smartphone app not as a standalone app. One way of achieving this is to send notifications to the watch about the user’s various activities that they could extensively examine and read about on their respective phones.For a functional app, you will need two native apps made available in the stores to carry your wearable app, one for Android and one for iPhone to support their respective OS. Although newer Android Wear watches support iOS, iOS apps are not as inclusive as other wearables as of this writing. They cannot carry Android Wear apps.
As for interface and controls, it cannot be stressed enough that you are working with a very tiny screen where micro-layouts are essentially the only solution to a workable wearable app. Just do not make the fatal mistake of watering it down by simply minifying your mobile screen to fit a smartwatch’s approximate screen. Think out of the box when it comes to the wearable screens.
Screen navigation may be accomplished in one of two ways. Push screens or modal appears right after a user highlights an item from a list or clicks a button. Every platform has its automatic way to return to the previous screen (so no need to make your navigation for that) which is achieved through physical buttons or gestures.
Keep in mind that notifications are a vital part of any wearable app so much so that they are the primary reason these gadgets co-exist with a smartphone. On its default setting, the watch app takes the notification and displays them to the user on their wearable that is sent from the app developer’s server to Microsoft, Google or Apple which ends up on the user’s phone.
Though you have not developed an app for these wearable devices, your app is working with them should you be sending push notifications. Consequently, you would want to polish those notifications to give their form a more sleek and optimized look.
Though not available throughout all platforms, several devices have this software installed which when used with your respective apps may pave the way for a more customized approach to opening your app from the system. Voice recognition complemented with your app will give your user a more customized and somewhat personal feel in using your apps.
Android Wear allows users to browse apps simply by giving the screen a touch or by uttering “OK Google, start (name of the app).” Apps may also register an instruction to the system such as “Take a note” or a custom action through a string of words. Additionally, because of voice recognition, Android Wear also allows for the return of the recognized text through “intent.”
Apple watch users open an app from a visual cloud of apps which are then zoomed in and out with the use of the crown and panned with the finger. Siri is also an important tool when asked to open an app by name. Users access apps by saying “Hey Siri, open (name of the app).”
Content and Context
To launch a successful wearable app, you need to make sure that your app provides the right information at the right time. For this to come to fruition, the phone’s app, in conjunction with the developer’s server, must be sensitive to the context of the user. This is more so when providing rich notifications and updating cards (glances on Apple Watch and Live Tiles on Microsoft Band), making them ready to use when a user tries to access them.
Geofencing is supported by both Android and iOS so it is to your advantage that you can be notified when a particular user enters or exists in a city or geographic boundary. Such as that when a prompt comes from the OS, your app can verify the context and see whether it would be to your advantage if you send notification to the wearable device.
WHERE AND HOW TO START YOUR DESIGN?
Perhaps, you are ready to create your app but before doing so, you will need the same official SDKs that you have used to create your native apps for their respective platforms. Consider that these wearable apps are meant to complement a smartphone. Before creating your app for a particular platform, make sure you have the corresponding latest versions of their operating systems.
Wearable devices are a byproduct of modern technology’s evolution and advancement. If there is anything that app developers should learn from this is that they should take full advantage of this welcome change rather than resist it. Though not all users have equipped themselves with this complementary digital accessory, there is a possibility that in decades to come these seemingly superfluous gadgets may soon be the premier devices people would use.
Before your app is rendered obsolete and irrelevant, it is best to start revamping them now to be inclusive of those who are utilizing these wearables. After all, as app developers, it is our primary goal to make sure that our apps are for every single user’s maximum enjoyment and convenience.
Contemporary development has made it possible for people to wield these powerful devices with convenience and it allows its users to enjoy the benefits of having a smart device with much lesser encumbrances. So, start revamping and polishing your apps for wearables today and your users will thank you enormously for it.