The Apple Watch was announced back in  September 2014, and will be available to test and pre-order April 10, two weeks before its release on the 24th. The wearable device announces alerts from calendars, phone messages, and social media, reports and coordinates fitness with heart rate and motion sensors, and accommodates its own apps, all within a 38mm (1.5-inch) or 42mm (1.65-inch) wristwatch.

The idea behind Apple’s first wearable is not to make other Apple devices obsolete, but to have an everyday, lightweight, extremely accessible smart screen with a vague and interesting promise: however you use your time, this watch will make the most of it (Apple’s take on timekeeping).

A new way of life? As long as developers keep up.

Even after its well-choreographed keynote this morning, Apple is supplying somewhat contradictory impressions. On the one hand, the watch is not what you call a standalone product, as it cannot be operated without an iPhone 5 or higher, and has a limited capability in that regard. On the other, Apple CEO Tim Cook’s intention with the Apple Watch is, in fact, to “change the way people live their lives.”

Huh.

Feeling a tick skeptical? Sure, it has the really high res screen, but showing alerts from my iPhone and tracking fitness, while cool, doesn’t quite make the earth shattering cut. Cook’s ambitious words (typical of Apple unveils) tell us two things:

1. Apple is looking to make iPhones the center of the Apple-verse. While the watch is more powerful because of its ties to the processing punch (and battery life) of the phone, requiring the multiple devices simultaneously signals a new direction: increasing iPhone sales.

Interested in the Apple Watch? Get yourself a new iPhone and we’ll talk.

2. On another level, Apple is looking to attempt another revolution in user interface. According to Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines, Apple Watch is designed to be worn, its UI is attuned to the wearer’s presence. This is by Cook’s own words, “Apple’s most personal device ever.”

With the Apple Watch you can let friends or loved ones know you’re thinking of them with silent, gentle tap patterns they’ll feel on the wrist. You can even customize taps for different people.

Compelling Apps…

Compelling Apple Watch apps will be designed for two overarching constraints of the user experience:

Personal timekeeping. Apple’s focus on personal time (centered on your appointments, etc.) instead of objective time (what a normal watch does) defines the new device. As a result, developers need to keep the super personal nature of this product in mind with their apps. It is a worn object, tracking the body’s movements and pulses, so its applications need to use the Watchkit platform to make the interface not only natural, but ultra-personal.

Which apps will work well (or better) on a 1.5-inch screen? Obviously, apps with little text and minimal touch interface will better “face” the challenge (a little watch humor there…). But in some ways, the small screen can be seen as a plus for UX. As seen in these demo images, there is absolutely no room for extraneous adds or visual/textual fluff. A quick glance needs to convey information simply, like gate changes at an airport–and more simply than an iPhone. As was said in today’s introduction, “Apple watch is about brief interactions, many of which are just a few seconds long.” For app makers, these pose interesting creative constraints.

Apple Watch app design concepts by Digital Telepathy

Our team has been tinkering with app concepts. Here are a few of our early ideas. We plan to share more soon!

1

An App for Total Heart Health

If Apple’s bet on health & fitness is accurate, the crux of the Watch’s newest device is its HRM (heart rate monitor). A great app would use the watch’s HRM to pump out crucial data, tracking rate variations and issuing warnings when necessary, and focus on improving health. Blood pressure data is critical for monitoring the nation’s #1 cause of death, heart disease. Unfortunately, the technology is not here yet, but we hope connected and complete heart monitoring will be possible in the near future.

2

An App to Design Your Connected Home

That live feed of Tim Cook’s garage door opening was pretty amazing. But what about going further? What about the thermostat? What about elements of atmosphere like sound, lights, and blinds? We’d like to be able to unlock my front door the same way I could garage or a hotel room.

3

Keynote for the Apple Watch

We wish Tim would have pulled up his sleeve more than once. The simplicity of glances is attuned perfectly to an effective presenter’s easy stage presence, and swiping through slides with a touch or even gesture opens myriad presentation innovations. Not to mention those slides at the bottom ofapple.com/live would have been great to watch on the Apple Watch.

The killer app waiting game

From the integration of bodily movements, or “glances” (raising the wrist to check messages and answer calls, lowering to dismiss), to the use of touch to communicate (via the watch’s nuanced haptic vibrations, coming from the so-called “Taptic Engine” inside), it is clear that the interface of this device is totally different from those of past. Movement, voice, touch, and even bodily functions are all pulled upon in the functioning of the Apple Watch, and all are a part of its user experience. Among other things, these new elements of the user experience up the ante for app development. As has been said around the web, the onus is now on developers to create a “killer app” suited for the novel interface of the watch–something more worthwhile than a less usable version of commonly used apps like Facebook and Twitter.

Design as a Competitive Advantage View Reading List

Apple has been considering every component of the experience of their new device, and is waiting on app-makers to develop meaningful experiences with the Watch. One can even sense a certain nudge nudge in the many tips and guidelines for developers on their design page. Even the physical border of the Retina display has been considered, resulting in edge-to-edge UI design that effectively renders that border invisible. Thoughtful app design should contribute to this experience of hardware and software feeling indistinguishable.

Apple seems eager (if not impatient) to get a “killer app” or two in development, and thus fulfill Cook’s ambitious words. For now, it may be that Apple’s part is done, and for third-party developers…the clock is ticking.

Apple Watch Sport prices start at $349 (a full $200 below other models), clearly Apple is going after the fitness market as their primary target. Taking advantage of the ultra-personal features of the new device, the ideal app may have the potential to make the Apple Watch an extension of ourselves.

Let’s make something awesome together.

Comments
  • Amazing Apple watches. Thanks a lot for great article.

    • Very shiney. THanks a lot for a great comment.

  • Ann Marie

    Excellent article, Joe! Hate to admit it, took me a little while to get UX. That is what being in the finance field does to you. LOL

    • As a baker turned outdoors writer turned UX blogger, I feel for you! Thanks for the comment, Ann!