With some months still before the expected launch of the watch itself, Apple has given developers a head start to experiment and test its capabilities, discovering innovative possibilities in preparation for the launch.
Now that the dust of excitement is starting to settle and we’ve had some time to examine the SDK, there are some interesting concepts and innovative app use cases emerging. Given that we will be able to add third-party apps straight from version 1.0, we decided to look at some existing apps for which it might be worthwhile to have a wearable app extension.
It’s worth noting that Apple has taken a somewhat cautious approach and will therefore have some restrictions as to what the Apple Watch is capable of doing right away, which we will be sure to point out. But, without further delay, here is our list of the top 6 creative apps and use cases that should make their way from the iPhone to the Apple Watch.
Evernote, in addition to being prominent on iOS, Android, desktop and web, has also dabbled with Pebble Watch. But Apple Watch’s more robust and feature-rich wearable will certainly make for a more engaging and comprehensive experience for Evernote.
Whereas Pebble only allowed the user to access Evernote documents and lists, using its physical buttons and lackluster ink-based screen, Apple Watch would present a more graphically-rich interface. Additionally, features such as the ability to have glance notifications of reminders based on date/time or proximity would offer more contextual notifications. Siri may also be utilized to trigger audio-dictation to add mini-notes.
Things by Culture Code already supports Handoff between iOS 8 devices and OSX, and having an Apple Watch app would provide for a concise task-management interface that would allow you to quickly tick off tasks, as well as glance at tasks that are due for the day, similar to how Apple’s Reminders app will supposedly work on Apple Watch.
Evernote would take advantage of Handoff when it’s paired with the iPhone and desktop versions to pass the active note or document and to open up that active document for further authoring.
Some of the limitations include a small screen size that would make it difficult to view full-sized documents, as well as multimedia items (pdfs, videos, etc.) that are attached. Additionally, it would be a read-only interaction unless you have a check-list document.
2. Social Media Apps
Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare are certainly some of the many social media apps that we would see on Apple Watch. Along with the ability to get subtle glance notifications of new tweets and mentions/messages, you should also be able to use Siri to dictate short messages.
With Foursquare in particular, you should be able to automatically check-in, as well as see quick reviews based on proximity of location. Foursquare also promotes tips by proximity, based on check-in, such as tips on nearby eateries. Having a subtle glance notification would allow for a less obtrusive tip to be sent out to the user on their wrists, as opposed to their phones.
Once again, there is already an official Pebble Watch app for Foursquare and being able to check-in via a short/long glance would allow for a conveniently gratifying feature.
Like Evernote, if a user needs to compose a longer message, Handoff should allow the user to move the conversation from the watch to the phone or desktop.
As with Evernote, input limitations mean that you are not able to compose long messages. But when you think of the wearable more as an extension of rather than a replacement for the iPhone, you are able to provide more contextual and precise messages when needed on the watch, whilst handing-off more elaborate and detailed messages to the iPhone.
3. Contactless Payment Apps
PayPal has made a significant push into the retail space, offering POS services for customers to pay via PayPal. The possibility for wearable users to be able to authenticate contactless payments similar to Apple Pay will certainly add extra convenience and diversity to the way customers pay for their coffees.
Venmo, which is more synonymous with person-to-person payments, could also use contactless wearable payments as a way of transferring and authenticating by proximity. One example would be for a user to utilize his phone to transfer money to nearby persons, without having to know the recipients’ email address prior, but only after as a way of confirmation.
There is already a Handoff in place between Apple Watch and iPhone for Passbook. Similar cross-coordination could occur between PayPal on the wearable and the mobile device to gain more context or information on specific transactions.
Infrastructure-wise, a lot of the store merchants are still trying to convert from the credit swipe-based vendor machines to the contactless ones, and currently only a few notable merchants are taking advantage of pass-pay compliant POS. By using software as opposed to contact-payments, PayPal may be able to provide another method of payment, such as through proximity and glance notification and confirmation.
4. Apple TV, Netflix & Hulu Apps
No doubt, this is the Golden Age for Netflix and Hulu, as more households are turning away from cable TV and moving towards the smorgasbord of subscription services, with the trend of cable-cutting to continue into 2015.
We will most likely see Apple TV finally begin to graduate from being a hobby of Apple’s into something more meaningful. While no official announcement has been made, there is a good bet that we may see a plan for Apple Watch to integrate with Apple TV, allowing for recognition of the signature of a family member based on her wearable and associated Apple ID.
Being able to interact with the Apple TV via Siri on the wearable or via gesture controls are two further use cases.
Hulu and Netflix in their own right could extend their iOS apps to Apple Watch, for instance with the ability to browse specific film/show lists and add to favorites/queues. Rating specific shows in the queue via the wrist should be more convenient while watching, rather than having to switch to your phone.
For limited contextual use, such as viewing a synopsis for a particular Hulu show or Netflix film before handing-off to the iPhone is an interesting feature, or when a new episode in the queue is available and appears as a glance notification, before being handed over to the mobile device for further interaction.
A distinguished limitation of the Apple Watch is that it is unable to play video, therefore features such as mini-trailers would not be possible in the device’s first iteration.
5. Automotive Apps
Back in March, Apple announced its Apple CarPlay initiative, which was aimed at bringing the iPhone experience to cars with the ability to access functions through Siri.
While this project has been quiet since it was first announced earlier this year, this is the type of initiative that takes longer to roll out, with a high dependency on car manufacturers. However this isn’t going to prevent us from thinking of some great use cases for wearables and intelligent cars.
Direct integration between Apple CarPlay and Apple Watch could see contextual Handoffs, such as having a map on your Apple Watch and then passing it off to the car for navigation. Messages could also be passed off for reading on the Apple CarPlay display system or you could imagine a Handoff for a specific contact for dialing via CarPlay.
Other app use cases, such as being able to detect when a driver is entering the vehicle or to be used as a key/authentication mechanism for locking and unlocking the car, are also interesting ideas.
If we were to implement mapping capabilities, currently the map is only static and non-interactive, meaning you wouldn’t be able to pinch or scroll maps but merely pass that intention to the iPhone for the full set of capabilities and features.
6. Home Automation Apps
Finally, we take a look at where things are tending to heat up, indoors, with home automation. A few years back, Google announced the Android@Home project aimed at inspiring home-automation gadgets, although since it was announced not much has progressed. Of course Google later purchased Nest, famous for its intelligent home thermostat, which has gained quite a lot of popularity.
During this year’s WWDC, Apple announced HomeKit, their take on inspiring home automation. With the idea of discovering and engaging home accessories and gadgets from toasters to television sets via iCloud, the Apple Watch will no-doubt play a central role.
We already mentioned Apple TV in an earlier point, but beyond that the ability to slide up or down a garage door or turn off your bedroom lights from your watch is an incredible convenience, especially with the security of tying in authorization via iCloud and one’s Apple Id that would prevent non-authorized users from interacting with your accessories.
Beyond Apple, Nest could have a wearable interaction-point, whereby rather than using your iPhone to set the home temperature remotely, you could use your Apple Watch to activate a specific temperature.
Home security systems could also communicate back to your wearable, with a glance notification if there is motion detected in your home and a still photo snapshot of the relevant room included.
There are certainly other limitations that we know of already that may impede certain apps, including the ability to make and receive phone calls on the device. Over time, no doubt we will see the capabilities of the Apple Watch increase, but Apple’s primary concern initially is to conserve battery, thus making the wearable have a dependable full day’s worth of battery.
We already know Apple’s intentions regarding HealthKit with the ability to track heart-rate and steps (accelerometer), which was the most obvious and immediate use of Apple’s wearable device. However, this is a whole new market, with new and innovative use cases already being worked on.
There’s no doubt we will see great strides not only in terms of evolution, but a complete disruption in our daily lives, the same potential we saw in how the iPhone revolutionized the concept of a phone into a pocket-sized Internet-capable computer.
Having glance notifications on your watch instead of having notifications appear on your phone is certainly less conspicuous, requiring less effort through tilting your wrists. Having to pick up your phone from the table or pocket would require further effort for what may not even be an important notification, which is why the wearable paradigm offers the advantage of subtlety.
We have presented six ideas for iPhone apps that would be great on the Apple Watch. However, innovation will certainly come from the broader community, so please let us know your amazing ideas for apps that you love using that would be even better on your wrist.