The wait is over for iOS developers. Apple has made WatchKit available, and app companies can start making native apps for Apple’s ambitious smartwatch, Watch. In what follows, we will take a tour through the various types of apps that are likely to become available pretty soon.
WatchKit software was officially released by Apple Inc. yesterday, much to the delight of developers worldwide. According to Philip Schiller (senior marketing VP), WatchKit would open up never-before possibilities for developers to come up with unique, high-utility smartwatch applications. Set to start shipping from early-2015, here’s an early roundup of the types of apps that can be developed for Apple Watch:
- Live ticker apps – Think ESPN live scores. Apple Watch has a very interesting ‘Glances’ feature (the Glance interface), which can be incorporated by iOS app developers to create live sports, news or other similar ticker applications. Users would have the option to check the app WHEN THEY WANT TO, and the information would be refreshed at frequent intervals. On Watch, it will always be about staying updated on the go.
- Document viewing apps – These would be particularly useful for busy business professionals and frequent travelers. Instead of having to remember where every vital document has been stored (or, folders and files have been saved), these Watch apps would provide a ‘Quick View‘ option for these papers, and store a digitized copy. The Watch is, after all, a wrist-worn device – and such apps would rule out the risks of misplacements of documents. Security won’t be an issue either.
- Navigation apps – Watch has been publicized as ‘Apple’s most personal gadget’. App developers can make it the most useful one too, in terms of navigation. An accurate, GPS-powered navigation app will enable people to find their way about anywhere (including foreign locations) without having to ask others for directions. Since all of Watch’s notifications can actually be ‘felt’, the apps can include a feature that generates vibrations – whenever a user deviates from the correct route.
- Fitness apps – Apple has two fitness-related apps (Activity and Workout) already built-in the Watch framework. With WatchKit and the iOS 8.2 beta SDK, it would be relatively easy for professional app companies to come up with fitness applications that would collaborate with these two. For instance, the total activity and calorie-burning data can be pulled in and summarized, to allot an aggregate ‘fitness score’ to users. The latter should also be able to compare scores with fellow-users of Apple Watch. Developers can even include short tips to improve fitness levels. Individuals would only have to check their wrists to read them.
- Remote control apps – Apple Watch is the perfect gadget for creating apps that would make the users’ homes ‘smarter’. Lutron and Honeywell have already developed applications for controlling the lights at homes, remotely. Developers can take this further, by developing a remote surveillance network through their apps. Whenever a Watch-user is not at home, (s)he would be able to check how much electricity (in units) is being spent (on an ongoing basis). In case there is a short-circuit, notifications will be sent immediately. To make the app more holistic, power usage would be categorized according to the different types of domestic electrical appliances. If any gadget is causing an inordinate power drain, the user will be intimated immediately. Electricity bills will be kept in check.
- Social networking apps – One of the most talked-about features of Apple Watch is Digital Crown. It allows people to stay in touch with preferred contacts via a single tap. This, in turn, serves as the perfect launching pad for social networking apps with a difference. With these new applications (preferably with GPS), it will become easier than ever to connect with old friends, make new acquaintances (on the basis of any common criterion), and even get recommendations on any topic. Every time a post or a new comment is published, users will ‘feel’ a vibration.
- Photo-sharing and editing apps – Developers can go one up on the Pinterest and Instagram apps for Apple Watch, by making apps that allow people to share photos as well as add interesting effects to them. Instead of going with the regular tap-functionality to browse across effects – it would be a cool idea to allow new effects to be applied (as preview) by simply waving Watch on one side. If anyone else edits a shared photo, notifications will sent to its original owner.
- Emoji apps – Apple Watch has Digital Touch – opening up the possibility of making user interactions easier and more innovative than ever before. In addition to run-of-the-mill IM applications (of which there will be many!), iOS app developers can create chat-based applications which support only pictures, shapes, sketches and emoticons. Move over heart-to-heart, with Apple Watch, friendships can now become wrist-to-wrist!
- Mobile payments apps – Those who have cribbed about the absence of Near-field Communication (NFC) in iPhone 6 would now have a reason to shut up – for Apple Watch boasts of powerful NFC functionality. It is rather obvious that app development professionals would churn out applications that serve as secure payment gateways. To give a boost to the app’s usability, Watch-wearers would be able to save the merchant names that they deal with most frequently under a ‘Favorites’ tab. The main challenge lies in making apps that would have more features than the default Apple Pay on Watch.
- Transit-help/Check-in apps – These would be an absolute delight for those who are…well…slightly geographically challenged. Developers can very well consider the ‘taptic’ feature of Watch to make apps that send alerts whenever the user is within a certain distance of his/her bus stop, railway station, or other public locations. There should also be a general option to provide detailed locational information during journeys (including when the user is in a flight). By tapping the relevant tab on the app, the user can find out exactly where (s)he is – right from the Watch screen.
- Hands-free door unlock apps – Starwood Hotels has already shown the way – and it would be plain sad if professional mobile app agencies did not take the hint. Given how cumbersome it is at times to unlock doors using keys or swipe cards (particularly when you are carrying three bags of luggage!), it would be great if people could just activate the app, and tap it to unlock the door in front of them. Apps can also have the ‘wave-to-unlock’ functionality. Even simpler. (Note: The lock would, of course, have to be paired with Watch first).
- Kids’ apps – Mobile apps for kids can get a whole new makeover on Apple Watch. The smartwatch has a Sketches feature, which would enable developers to make fun drawing apps. Little users can even view and share their heartbeat loops with their friends (or on social media), and add new and interesting colors to them. A Watch-user can challenge another to a drawing contest. Watch has actionable notifications, which would alert the second person immediately when (s)he has been invited to join a contest.
- Vehicle parking and maintenance apps – Once again, BMW has introduced an app of this type, and we would, in all probability, see many similar applications by next year. The focus of these apps would be: a) finding reliable, convenient car parking spots, b) providing owners step-by-step directions to where their vehicles have been parked, and c) ensuring that there is no unauthorized access (read: car thefts). An additional functionality to keep a tab on the car’s fuel tank can be included to. People can simply get in their cars and check their wristwatches, to find out whether they have to stop at a pumping station. No more relying on the fuel meter of vehicles!
- Shopping apps – Yet another great takeout from ‘Glances’ on Apple Watch would be shopping-based apps. A properly customized native app for Watch can allow shoppers to find out about the best retail stores in their city, for any particular product. From fellow-users of Apple Watch, recommendations and reviews of local restaurants can also be obtained. If someone is off on a foreign tour, apps of these kind would double up as a trustworthy travel guide.
- Stock market-related apps – Instead of including stock market information in the ticker apps (discussed above), developers would be better-off making separate personalized apps for them. On the Watch screen, the app dashboard would display the stock quotes (with real-time updates) of the companies that a user is interested in. Ideally, people should also be able to buy/sell shares directly from these Watch apps.
- Gaming apps – Users of Apple Watch can tap the device screen to connect with each other – so how about making signal-based gaming apps? It will have to be a multiplayer game though, and each participant can send along patterned taps to the others (something like communicating in Morse Code). Whoever is able to guess the meaning of the communication would get the next chance create a tap code. Such a game might be a tad too difficult for kids, but adults with a penchant for solving puzzles would love it!
- Diet advice apps – With the Stand and the Move rings of the Activity app on Watch, users can get a visual representation of their daily activity levels (along with the calorie-usage figure). iOS developers can come up with third-party apps that work in sync with Activity, to generate personalized diet charts for each individual user (based on his/her health status and activities). As the fitness levels improve (Watch has an in-built Fitness app for that), the recommended diets would change. Push notifications can be sent along – if someone delays his/her meals by too long.
- Voting apps – There can be apps for Apple Watch that can make people interact directly with the live events/concerts that they are watching. For instance, if there is a live dance competition on the tele in progress, viewers would be able to vote for their favorite performer, simply by tapping on the Watch screen. Surveys have shown that nearly 85% people fiddle with their smartphones or tablets while watching TV, and these apps would make Apple Watch a cool ‘second screen’.
- Entertainment apps – Developers will have the chance to make Apple Watch more engaging than any other device from the Cupertino company. App companies can make applications that allow users to seamlessly connect their Watch with both iTunes Radio as well as Apple TV. These apps should ideally have pre-tested media screens/features, ensuring interruption-free video and audio playback.
- Dating apps – There are many online dating sites, and app developers can collaborate a few of them – to create interesting dating apps for Apple Watch. Nothing could possibly be more innovatively romantic than sending along the sounds of heartbeat (via HealthKit), or to simply share cutely sketched heart figures (via Sketches). The touch features of these applications would complement the Digital Touch, and would make conversations interesting like never before. People can save the names of their special someones, and send along a ‘tap’ whenever (s)he is feeling lonely.
iOS app development companies will require 2 separate executables while making apps for Apple Watch. Firstly, there will be the native version of the app, which will have the storyboards, and secondly, a WatchKit extension which would be operable on the paired iPhone. Apple has repeatedly emphasized that the Watch applications would not take the place of general iOS applications. Instead, they would complement the latter.
There can be many other categories of apps that can be developed for Apple Watch, which cannot be guessed right now. After all, when the first-generation iPad was released in 2010, who’d have guessed the sheer range of tablet apps that would become available over time?
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