For decades, the Dick Tracy videophone watch was always the symbol of “the future.” While that particular feature hasn’t caught on, the development of smartwatches by Apple and Samsung could make high-tech wrist-wear a part of the culture. If your app fits the format, it could be a handy opportunity to boost your revenues.
In the same way that apps helped the iPhone establish the idea of a true smartphone (as opposed to a cellphone that happened to have an Internet connection), Apple’s Watch and the Samsung Galaxy Gear look set to open up a whole new arena for mobile app developers. If all goes according to plan, it will create a symbiotic relationship where the more apps that are available for the watches, the more people will want them, and the more attractive that audience will become to app developers.
So should you put the work into redesigning your existing app for the smallest of screens? It really depends on what your app does and whether it can take advantage of the watch’s hardware features. If your app is all about the visuals or consuming multimedia, it’s probably not going to transfer well and could even hurt your brand image if you have to compromise on size.
Similarly, apps that are based around information may not be a good fit unless you’re focused on key alerts such as messaging.That said, the Watch does include a new hardware feature called the Taptic Engine that can produce a range of different “pressing” sensations on the wearer’s wrist. If your app can turn this from gimmick into a genuinely useful tool, the Watch could be a lucrative market.
If your app is based around physical movements, however, the watches could be a great opportunity. For example, the Apple Watch has a built-in accelerometer that can measure everything from walking speed to how long users spend standing up or sitting —and third-party apps will be able to access all of this data. That means anything fitness-based could be an ideal fit, as well as any app where hand or arm gestures will improve control rather than being a gimmick.
Apple’s Watch will also include a remote viewfinder for the camera on the paired iPhone, so if you have a video or photography app, it could be an opportunity to enhance the experience for users.
The other big question is whether the watches will attract a big enough audience to make optimizing or redeveloping an app worth your time. While a smartwatch may sound like a gimmick to many people, Apple in particular has a knack of getting people to fall in love with something they never knew they needed: it didn’t invent the MP3 player or the tablet computer, but it soon turned them into something people couldn’t live without.
The cost may be an issue for some buyers, but there’s certainly a theory in the industry that smartwatches may, appropriately enough, bring culture full circle. Back in the day, wristwatches were so ubiquitous that they became a status symbol. While some people bought the cheapest models available, others saw it as a great way to combine practicality with luxury. Apple and Samsung are both clearly trying to market smartwatches as stylish rather than merely utilitarian, so even if they don’t achieve critical mass in sales, they could attract plenty of customers with enough disposable income that they do not think twice about app purchases.
Targeting the smartwatch may not be the best use of resources for every app developer, but if your app fits the bill, it could be more feasible than you think: producing a quality smartwatch app in four to eight weeks is a realistic proposition. All the best and do take advantage of this exciting new frontier in personal tech.