Apple Watch And Your Apps


By now you’ve probably seen Pharrell’s Apple Watch video:


A video posted by Pharrell Williams (@pharrell) on

“Woah,” indeed. Pharrell got his watch early, but as of today, April 10th, 2015, the rest of us can pre-order ours. Apple Watch represents a new category of mobile device. Your users will interact with their watch differently than they do their phone or tablet. Instead of sitting in their pocket all day like a phone, a watch stays on their wrist – where they can access it immediately and be finished within seconds.

How Will Your Users Interact With Apple Watch?


For the most part – just like any other watch. Users will glance at it occasionally for information like the time, the weather, and maybe their step-count. When they receive a message from a friend, their watch will buzz to notify them. Once in a while they’ll dive deep into a particular app to experience something truly different and delightful. Apple defines 3 unique ways for users to interact with Watch: Glances, Actionable Notifications, and Apps.

Note: an Apple Watch Glance, Notification, or App is an extension of an existing iOS app. Your iOS app may implement any, all, or none of the Apple Watch interfaces – it’s your choice.


Glancing at a tweet

Glances are a quick, read-only summary from an existing iOS app. Glances provide users with the most recent and relevant information available. Importantly, glances are not interactive. They present their data, and if a user wants to know more, they tap on the glance to launch the Apple Watch App – if it exists. They cannot scroll a glance for more information, so it’s important to be brief.

Some examples of glances:

  • Pictured: A recent tweet from someone you follow on Twitter
  • A weather app’s forecast for the next few hours at your location
  • The start-time of your favorite team’s next game – or a summary of their last
  • A snapshot of your stock portfolio’s performance today


 Actionable Notifications

Actionable Notifications

Long-Look Interface

Actionable Notifications allow users to respond to your app’s notifications directly from their wrist. Apple Watch provides two different forms of Notification: the Short-Look Interface and the Long-Look Interface.

  • Short-Look Interface
    This screen does not scroll and cannot be customized. Your users will see your app’s icon, the app’s name, and the title string from the notification – which may be cut off.
  • Long-Look Interface
    This screen scrolls vertically to display all of your notification’s content. It starts at the top with a sash – an overlay showing the app’s icon and name. You can choose the color of the sash.

The content lives below the sash. This is where Watch displays a notification’s data. Using a message as an example, this area might show you the name of the sender, the time of the message, and the actual message.

At the bottom of the Long-Look you’ll see a Dismiss button and any other buttons defined by your app. Going back to our message example, you might see buttons allowing you to ReplyMark as Read, or Archive.

Apple Watch Apps

Watch Apps

Watch allows your iOS app to provide a customized, interactive experience. Users can navigate through a virtual “ball” of apps – imagine swiping your finger on the image to the left, and the app icons rotating in response. Tapping an app icon will launch it, just as we’ve seen for years on the iOS home screen. However, unlike a full-fledged iOS app, an Apple Watch App currently has certain limitations.

If you have more than one screen of content, you must choose whether your app will use a Page-Based or Hierarchical system of navigation. What’s the difference?

  • Page-Based Navigation
    When your Watch app starts, it will show the first “page” of your content, along with a series of dots at the bottom of the screen – one dot per page. The user will swipe horizontally to access the other pages. The dot indicates which page you are viewing relative to the other pages in the app.
  • Hierarchical Navigation
    This is the classical drill-down menu. Select an item on the first page to push in more detailed content. If your app’s content were a tree, your first page would be the root – all other pages branch out from there. All “back” actions eventually bring you back to the single start page.

Note: Your app may choose exactly one of these options for its structure – Page-Based or Hierarchical. Watchkit-based apps are not currently permitted to combine these functionalities.

A Context Menu

Context Menus take advantage of Watch’s Force Touch gesture. When enabled in your Watch app, a user can press (as opposed to a tap) on the watch screen to present a series of options like you see in the picture above. This is a quick way to get input from your user.

Moving Forward

You now know the basic structure of an Apple Watch app. The next part is up to you – how are you going to make your existing iOS app work from your users’ wrists? Do they need a GlanceActionable Notification, or a full-fledged Apple Watch App? What data will provide your users with the most immediate value – and keep them coming back to your app?

Would you like to know more about Apple Watch? Have questions for us? Leave a comment below, or contact us today for more information. Thanks for reading, and have a great day.


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