Apple has not released hardware innovations since 2010 when it created the brand new concept of the iPad, now they have announced the pre-order of the Apple Watch. Wearable electronics is a new trend. All major software and hardware companies are trying to share their vision of the new and promising technology and Apple is not an exception here.
For this new type of electronic Apple suggests a completely new hardware and user interface concepts. While core applications will be accessible without connecting to the phone, 3rd party apps will be installed and run via iPhone, so that in fact Apple Watch would be some kind of an extension for your mobile device. This way Apple is going to save the battery life and make a popular wrist accessories a lot more functional.
As the device is totally different from what the iOS developers worked on before, we’re going to UX-challenge several differences in user interaction:
- Display size is very small and really needs to contain only the most important content
- User usually interacts with watches for several seconds (not minutes like on smartphones or tablets)
- Screen size is as big as 2 fingers and swiping can cover the content of the screen
- Battery size is limited and the software should be energy saving
- Speaker is rather small and sound notifications are in most cases unacceptable
To resolve these challenges Apple is coming up with several exciting innovations:
- Force touch screen of Apple watches can detect several types of touches depending on touch force and we can do more things in a limited space of watch screen just by differentiating between the touch types. This gives us the additional options for tap interactions within the apps.
- Taptic engine is a kind of vibro feedback engine which can assist in sending notifications from the apps or perform feedback for force touch interaction. Now users will be able to differentiate between the notification types (intensity, duration, quantity) without looking at the device display.
- Digital crown looks like a jog dial which can be used for scrolling content inside apps. At a first glance, everything we can do through Digital Crown can also be done using the touch screen, but the main advantage is that when we scroll interface by Digital Crown we don’t overlay interface elements on the small screen with our fingers.
But innovations now are not only hardware-related for Apple Watches. Apple comes up with brand new types of application concepts.
The main feature of all smart watches despite all capabilities is still displaying current time. So the entire interface concept is built around the idea that home screen is the watch face and user can return to watch face easily from every screen.
Watch Face is a special type of app that can be placed on home screen and should display current time and the most useful notifications. Current release of the WatchKit SDK doesn’t support this type of application and Apple watch will not have 3rd party watch faces, at least in the first release. But all the other types of apps can be developed by 3rd party developers. And below you will see the “how”.
Glances is a first application we can do on Apple Watch. It is a single screen application which can be easily invoked with swiping from the home screen. These apps should be as compact as one screen and can’t be scrollable. Glances acts similar to widgets on desktop: the main purpose of this app is that a user should get the most important information from iPhone app. And user should be able to catch this information as quickly as in 1-2 seconds.
Though there is an alternative to Glances – apps which are much more similar to regular iPhone apps with the hierarchy of scrollable screens. Apple watch will have special app menu to launch these apps. This menu is also innovative, since it was quite a challenge to place all the apps on a single facet screen. Users can navigate this facet screen swiping and zooming apps in it.
WatchKit SDK is open for developer since November. From April Apple will start to publish iOS applications with Apple Watch support on the App Store.
Most of widely popular apps e.g. Twitter, Instagram, Evernote, RunKeeper have already announced the AppleWatch releases and straight after official launch Apple Watches will have thousands of 3rd party apps.
If you are considering to add support for Apple Watch to your current iOS app, it is time to hurry up, because the Apple Watch preorder starts today!
Got an idea for WatchOS development project? Estimate it!
Also published on Medium.