6 App Types to Make Apple Watch a Must-Have Device
Tucked in among the many iPad-related announcements that Apple CEO Tim Cook made at the company’s October media event in Cupertino, California, was some more news about the highly anticipated Apple Watch. “We have been working with selected third-party developers on Apple Watch — like BMW, like American Airlines, like Starwood — and they’ve created some really unique, personal experiences for Apple Watch,” said Cook. “I’m please to tell you today that we have developed WatchKit, where many other developers can join this party and we are rolling out WatchKit next month in time for our developers to really do some fantastic work before we begin shipping Apple Watch.”
As noted by Cook, Apple has already provided a glimpse of the type of smartwatch apps that will be available from a group of initial partners when it first unveiled the device at its media event in September. Now, with the upcoming release of WatchKit in November, the number of Apple Watch apps should quickly multiply ahead of the device’s release in “early 2015.” Based on the specific apps that have already been revealed by Apple, as well as hints from the app developer community, here are the six major types of apps that will make the Apple Watch a must-have device.
As revealed by Apple during its September media event, BMW has already developed an app that will provide you with a map to your car if you forgot where you parked it. The BMW i app lets you know what your vehicle’s charge level is and — based on the screenshot shown by Apple — it appears that it will also offer confirmation that your vehicle is locked. Another app developed by Citymapper not only provides mass transit directions, it also reminds users when they’ve reached their stop via the Apple Watch’s haptic “tap” function. Similarly, a Pinterest app will alert users when they are near a location they have previously “pinned” and will provide directions to it.
While smartphones have already demonstrated the potential and popularity of navigation apps, the Apple Watch will offer new ways of implementing those apps. Rather than having to constantly glance at a map displayed on a device’s screen or having directions robotically recited out loud, the Apple Watch will be able to navigate a user with discreet taps. For this reason, apps that take advantage of the Apple Watch’s unique navigation potential will likely be a major category in this device’s burgeoning app market.
For a device that is constantly in close contact with a user, it is not surprising that several social media companies have already partnered with Apple to develop apps for the Apple Watch. At its media event in September, Apple revealed that Facebook and Twitter will have apps ready for the Apple Watch when it makes its debut next year. As demonstrated by Apple VP of technology Kevin Lynch, the Facebook app will allow users to scroll through news feeds and receive updates. However, it remains unclear if users will be able to post status updates from the Apple Watch. The Twitter app allows users to views tweets and access the “favorite,” “retweet,” and “dismiss” buttons, as well as send tweets directly from the wrist-worn device.
Many of the Apple Watch’s most unusual features appear to be ideal for social media apps. Besides using the device’s tap feature to notify users when they have a social media update, it’s easy to imagine how savvy social media app developers could incorporate some of the Apple Watch’s other unique capabilities. For example, a social media app could allow users to post a quick doodle to their social media account using the device’s sketch feature. A social media app could even allow users to post a loop of their heartbeat or a sound bite of their voice by incorporating the device’s built-in heart rate sensor or walkie-talkie features.
Apple revealed the potential for check-in apps for the Apple Watch when it briefly discussed two apps made by American Airlines and Starwood Hotels. The American Airlines app will display a digital boarding pass that will expedite check in and baggage pick up. The Starwood Hotels app will not only allow users to check in via their Apple Watches, it will also allow the device to function as an electronic key for their hotel room.
Since the Apple Watch is a wrist-worn gadget that is literally within arm’s reach, it is ideally suited for helping to remove some of the friction associated with travel and hospitality services. Travelers are less likely to lose a boarding pass or a hotel key if it is always strapped to their wrist. This also frees up travelers’ hands to do more useful things, such as carry their luggage. Although Apple didn’t mention Apple Pay integration with these apps, it should be noted that the Apple Watch will also include the company’s NFC-based contactless mobile payments service. Imagine walking into a hotel, checking in and paying with a few taps on your Apple Watch, and then walking up to your hotel room where you can unlock the door by simply waving your arm. Needless to say, there is a lot of growth potential for Apple Watch apps that include check-in features.
Real-time event updates
Another important category of apps suggested by Apple may be related to live entertainment and sports events. As announced by Apple, Major League Baseball (MLB) has created an app that will show real-time game scores. Not only could this app be adopted for other sports games, it could also be used for other live events as a way to increase engagement with customers. According to a Nielsen survey conducted earlier this year, 84% of smartphone and tablet owners already use their mobile devices as second screens while they are watching television.
Apps developed for the Apple Watch could expand on this second-screen trend by providing users with timely information related to a live event that they are watching. Live television shows such as American Idol could tap users to remind them to vote for their favorite performer. A developer could even create an app that taps viewers when the halftime break of a football game is over so they won’t miss the game.
Besides providing real-time event updates for remote viewers or listeners, the Apple Watch could also function as a navigation and check-in device for people attending an event. As reported by TechCrunch, MLB has already adopted Apple’s iBeacon technology at many of its ballparks around the country where it is used for check-in, navigation, and as a way to deliver special offers and interactive features to fans. Future apps for the Apple Watch could build on this system and take advantage of the device’s subtler approach to giving directions and notifications, as well as allow attendees to pay for their tickets via Apple Pay.
Health and fitness monitoring
Although the Apple Watch has fewer health and fitness tracking sensors that what was originally rumored, apps that are focused on this area will still play a major role in the device’s ecosystem. Apple has even created an Apple Watch Sport collection that is geared toward fitness users, as well as two native fitness apps. According to Apple, the Apple Watch “uses the accelerometer, a built-in heart rate sensor, GPS and Wi-Fi from your iPhone to provide a comprehensive picture of your daily activity.” A built in Activity app promises to track how many calories a user has burned, as well as how much “brisk activity” and standing a user has done each day. Another built in app, Workout, will keep track of more detailed measurements for exercises like running, walking, and cycling.
At its media event in September, Apple also revealed that Nike has already developed an app that will allow users to challenge their friends to a running contest. Apple also recently unveiled its HealthKit health data storage platform and it’s likely that many other activity-tracking apps will be developed for the Apple Watch that will work closely with this platform. It’s also likely that developers will create many health-related apps that use data from the Apple Watch’s built-in heart rate sensor.
Last, but not least, it appears that apps related to smart home or connected home products will also be a major part of the Apple Watch’s ecosystem. Apple has already unveiled two smart home apps made by Honeywell and Lutron at its media event in September. The Honeywell app allows Apple Watch users to remotely control the thermostat in their homes, while the Lutron app allows users to control a home’s lighting.
Apple’s “most personal device ever” is ideally suited as a readily accessible device for controlling products in the home. Earlier this year, Apple unveiled HomeKit, a suite of tools that allows developers to easily create iOS apps for home automation products such as light dimmers, thermostats, and door locks. With so many home products being integrated into the “Internet of Things,” it’s likely that smart home-related apps will be an important category of apps for the Apple Watch and one that will make it a must-have product for Apple’s loyal users.
While these six app categories provide a good idea of the types of apps that consumers can expect to see developed for the Apple Watch, it is quite likely that there will be many other innovative apps that fall outside of these categories. It is also likely that there will be many apps that crossover multiple categories and utilize the Apple Watch’s capabilities in unexpected and unusual ways. After all, who could have predicted all the types of apps that are currently available for the iPhone and the iPad? Tim Cook probably expressed the sentiments of many Apple customers when he noted at the October iPad event that “Apple Watch will be shipping early next year and every day I look forward to that day.”
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