3 Tips for Extending Your App to the Apple Watch

apple watch

The launch of the Apple Watch has created significant interest among the developer community in terms of the value of leveraging their existing iOS app towards this new platform. First-year sales estimates vary wildly, from 8 million to 41 million units. Whichever side of the spectrum the sales numbers fall, there is no doubt that the Apple Watch will have a dramatic impact on the way users engage with their digital devices, and thus on the way developers engage with their users. Remaining relevant and competitive will require an Apple Watch extension.

This is especially true for categories like financial services, that consumers frequently engage with on their mobile phones. According to the Federal Reserve, 52 percent of smartphone owners with a bank account use mobile banking and more than half of users log in at least 2 to 3 times a week. The Apple Watch is a natural channel to perform many of the same activities, such as checking a bank balance or receiving fraud notifications.  

Currently, without an Apple Watch App Extension, the iPhone notifications you provide in your app will still appear on the Apple Watch. However, providing more information on the Apple Watch can give your customers valuable additional information and insights. Moreover, the development effort is minimal, considering the small UI and minimal functionality needed on the Apple Watch.

Here are 3 tips to make your app successful on the Apple Watch:

1. Provide a Quick Glance

apple watch financial Provide a “quick glance” of your users’ profiles. When users are out and about, chances are they aren’t trying to complete any complicated functionalities. They check their apps because they need information in the moment, and the Apple Watch is an ideal device for delivering it.

Similar to what Personal Capital is doing in the financial realm, you can provide a chart summarizing their financial portfolio, balances or spending habits. Your app can analyze spending habits through their bank account data to allow users to instantly access the information they need. Also, keep in mind that due to the personal nature of the Apple Watch (you wear it on your body), customization is key, so give customers multiple options for glances. You can also make the glances “smart” by displaying the glance they most recently viewed.

2. Notify Your Customer

With limited screen space, the Apple Watch is also ideal for delivering notifications. People will still turn to their mobile device or computer for more complicated tasks that require screen space (like writing an email), so a huge part of the Apple Watch’s utility is the ability to deliver subtle notifications. It allows people to stay on top of their lives without constantly burying their nose in a smartphone.

Delivering the “right” notifications requires a balance. They need to be frequent enough to be useful, but not so frequent they are annoying or intrusive. Content should be brief, to the point, and give the user the exact information they need in the moment.

Here are some great examples of notifications:

  • For a financial app, if you allow the user to set the spending limits on their iPhone app, offer notifications on the WatchKit if they were to exceed spending in that particular category.
  • If you’re a social app, notify the user when friends are nearby. Messages and preferences can be edited through the app, but an unobtrusive notification on your wrist can be a great way to bridge the digital and physical worlds.
  • How about fraud detection? If you can geo-locate transactions, set alerts based on location – if a transaction today occurs far away from where the user transacted yesterday, notify them of a possible unauthorized charge.

3. Help Your Customer Find You

Images are still extremely important in the Apple Watch environment. A swirl of bubbles represent apps on the Apple Watch, which makes it challenging to identify which app is which --  especially with the expanding and minimizing of icons as you navigate through the screen. You want to make sure your icon is consistent with the icon on your iPhone app.  

apple watch application

There are many benefits to extending your app to the Apple Watch, and the good news is that it’s pretty easy to do if you use the Apple Watch Extension App. It not only expands the capabilities and platform of your existing app but also gets you and your developers excited about building something new with minimal time investment.

For Apple Watch app extensions, you can still use your existing iOS codebase on XCode. All you have to do is add a WatchKit target extension to your iOS app, and a series of files are generated specifically for the Apple Watch. The files include a separate UI (storyboard file) for your Watch interface, as well as an interface controller and notification controller.  

Remember when developing your Apple Watch app that the goal is not to increase engagement through interaction. There is no keyboard, the UI is simple, and the processing power is less than an iPhone. The bulk of your functionality will remain in the iPhone app while key notifications and insights apply to your Apple Watch app.

What tips do you have for extending apps to the Apple Watch? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Jeanine Swatton Jeanine is the director of developer evangelism at Yodlee Interactive. She specializes in building mobile and web apps and teaches iOS development and Ruby on Rails. Jeanine is an involved member of many organizations including Startup Monthly, the National Center for Women and Information Technology, Flipped Learning Network and Silicon Valley China Wireless.

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