Get in touch

A first look at the Apple Watch app features

A few weeks back, we were looking at the possibilities for mobile app developers when it comes to smartwatches. Now that the Apple Watch is out on the wrists of a million or so early adopters, and some 3,000 launch apps are being dissected by users, reviewers, and UI and app designers, what are the early lessons to be learnt?

The first feature we've noticed is the breadth of apps bursting out of the App Store. While the most numerous are the expected range of travel notification and health and fitness apps, more creative developers have been hard at work. They've managed to cram a mini role-playing game in the form of RuneBlade onto the Watch, while restaurant chains, like the American Chipotle brand, will now let you order directly from it, and the British Airways app will show departure gates and times, and weather on arrival.

The good news is that most developers have worked hard to avoid cramming too much information onto one screen. Data is spread over a few pages, or can be scrolled along to see more, notably for social media and chat apps. Most developers also seem to have got the idea that users will have a few key pieces of information per app, such as a favourite route, order or other piece of data, and are storing them for easy retrieval.

News apps like CNN are focusing on showing the headlines and then letting users continue reading an article on their phone, neatly delineating the devices into discovery and consumption modes, something that all developers should focus on.

There are some unfortunate clear cases where companies decided they needed an app, with no real thought as to why. Does the New York Times Cooking app really need to be present on a smartwatch, when most users will have their phone or tablet in the kitchen? It looks messy and presents hopelessly limited information.

Overall though, the Apple Watch app ecosystem seems to have got off to a good start. If it drives hardware sales across the market, expect plenty more demand for watch apps that offer unique features or clever tricks.