What do designers need to keep in mind when creating their Apple Watch apps? below is a list of features, interactions and questions. From two-handed interactions to understanding logos, have a look and let me know what you think.
The Watch Life, what having a watch means for people
Wearing a watch has shifted from a cultural standard to a subculture over the past 15-20 years. The advent of mobile phones means many of us have stopped wearing watches. Here’s some things to keep in mind:
Watches are one-handed interfaces but require both hands to be available. The hand the watch is on is required but unusable, the other is needed to manipulate the watch itself.
You can't carry anything and interact with a watch.
Looking at the watch is easy, it simply requires the user to raise their forearm, rotate their wrist and look down. But socially, especially with users who were young adults in the era before mobile phones, this action has the gestural meaning of boredom and disinterest. "Oh look at the time!”.
The more you require users to look at their watch the more this message may be conveyed.
(Yet, at the beginning of the Apple Watch's lifecycle, early-adopters will want excuses to reveal the watch. Don’t under-estimate the need to show-off.)
It's not just you. Watches get in the way of clothing. In a suit the thickness of a watch can cause bunching forcing some users to forego the watch all together if they are hoping to look their best.
People occasionally wear watches on different wrists. The crown will either face their hand or their forearm.
There’s also a percentage of the watch-wearing population that wears their watch on the under-side of their wrist to hide the face. There are anecdotal reasons for this such as, it’s faster to view the time and it provides better protection for the watch.
What’s special about the Apple Watch
The size of the screen, <48mm & <38mm, means that text will be hard to read.
Older users, those most likely to purchase the watch due to income and social heritage of a watch interface, will have a harder time reading text on the device.In addition, longer text will require some type of touch interaction that will only increase as the text gets larger.
Brand identities will need some adjustment to ensure users understand which app is which. Logos will need to be unique and explicit to the Apple Watch app. Logos that use text within the icon will often be illegible and require redesign into the smaller (but scalable) circle icon. Note that this circle shape is the same as the circle at the center of Apples iOS logo design guidelines so most apps will transition easily. Apps that rely on text below the icon, such as Yo, will need a redesign.
Unique to the Apple Watch, most users will not wear the watch overnight. Apple expects them to charge the device overnight which means it's sitting on the nightstand or windowsill nearby. Do not expect a sleep tracking app to gather useful data.
The Apple Watch will be hard to use for longer interactions. Not only for reading but for anything that needs more than a minute or two of focus. I believe it’s physically hard to sit with your wrist up for more than 5 minutes. Try it out. The Apple Watch will be less of a content consumption device and more of a collections and notifications device. For longer interactions most users will probably use their phone.
In the initial videos we see the rotating crown revealing interactions that zoom in and out on the Z-axis. This insinuates that we can now design apps that are more accurately 3D interactive. We’ll see the first batch of apps create standards around moving in and out of states through a new axis. Similar to the standards we see on the iPhone like pull-down to refresh. We'll see apps that reveal more or less information, update feeds of content and open menus. I’m excited to see what the first batch of Z-axis apps looks like.
The Watch face is pressure sensitive. This is a new element for Apple touch screens overall. It means interfaces can have a broader amount of interactions. For some this could mean a tap reveals a pop-up menu and a hard tap is a selection. For other it could be used for gaming as pressure-sensitive buttons were first introduced on the Playstation. Designers will need to understand the moments users are more likely to be rough with their taps and when they'll tend to be softer. Designers and developers will have to test out just how sensitive the touchscreen is before relying on it for their applications.
The haptic interactions (vibration) was presented by Apple as a tool for notifications. Expect the ability to customize vibration patterns to designate both a person and a type of notification: messaging, app functionality, directions, and even the collection of activity data. I believe this means vibration patterns will be a primary tool for notification and give the watch the ability to be used without looking at the screen. I’m most excited about vibration-driven directions while walking.
The microphone will be a major input tool for most users. I think those of us living in cities are less apt to use it but in quieter, less populated spaces having Siri take dictation or be given instruction can be useful. And baby-boomers will enjoy finally have a Dick Tracey watch.
In the introductory video we saw the Apple Watch being used with Apple Pay. This interaction has a huge potential but the details of that interaction have yet to be revealed. Since the fingerprint scan on the phone is the validation interaction, will users need to unlock the phone before purchase?
The heart rate and accelerometer sensors provide opportunities well beyond simply tracking our activity levels. heart rates are another layer of biometric security. We each have a unique heartbeat so users could use their heartbeat to unlock the Apple Pay app (instead of a fingerprint scan) or any other bio-metrically secured device or application.
But heart rate can also be used to determine interest, level of attention and even, to a point, emotional state. This has implications for adaptivity of applications that work between the phone and the watch. Or even between the watch and iTunes.
In addition heart rate can used to determine and observe major health events, not just heart attacks but anything involving blood flow within the body. Stress, seizures, PTSD, depression and even sleep quality. This level of use will probably require a more advanced sensor but it's feasible for the near future.
As with other wristband activity trackers, data is not always accurate when it's collected from the wrist. it's possible to gain data from an arm swing and foot strike data can be concealed by the arms ability to stabilize.
And lastly, the battery life will be an issue not only for the watch but for the phone. Running tests of power usage on an iPhone 5s with iOS8 I’ve observed a 40% increase in battery life simply by turning off Bluetooth. While the technology is “low-power” if enough applications are given approval for persistent background use of location services then there is a constant use of Bluetooth, WiFi and the mobile antennas. The more apps that are approved, the most battery power is consumed.
The Apple Watch will be yet another drain on the phone’s battery as it requires the phone for connectivity. While a Bluetooth connection is very low power, the demand for power increases with each request for new information. The more data transferred between the devices, the more power is needed.
Questions I have:
- Will it be waterproof?
- What will battery life look like?
- How much storage will it have?
- Will it be able to connect to other devices besides the iPhone?
- Will it ever have a headphone jack?
- Will it ever have a camera?
- What will the watch app approval process be like?
- Will 3rd party watchband designs be allowed?