Apple Watch app creation more challenging than it was for iPad, say devs

Scaling phone apps up to a large screen? That's far easier than scaling them down to a wearable device. It will require more planning and thought.
Written by Kevin Tofel, Contributor

It's not easy being a mobile app developer when you have to get your software to work on so many different screens. The latest one is the small face of the Apple Watch, which becomes available on April 24. And before the watch arrives, some programmers are quietly working with Apple to have the best Apple Watch apps on launch day.

According to the Financial Times, Apple is allowing a few dozen app developers to test their software on working Apple Watches under direct supervision at Apple's Sunnyvale, California labs. The alternative is to use the official Apple Watch simulator for testing; a reasonable approach but not one that's ideally suited to replicate wearable device interactions.

I'm not terribly surprised that some of the developers are facing challenges: They tell the Financial Times that creating Apple Watch apps -- which are mainly extensions of current iPhone apps -- is more challenging than when they had to do a similar task for Apple's new iPad in 2010. Scaling an app up to the iPad's larger canvas probably looks relatively easy by comparison.

That's because not every app actually belongs on the wrist, and those that do have a place on the Apple Watch will have to put careful thought into what information -- and how much of it -- will add value to the small screen. I touched upon this topic last week, warning people of the coming Apple Watch app deluge.

For its part, Apple is reportedly trying to offer developer guidelines to help app-makers keep the Apple Watch user experience a positive one. The company previously suggested that app interactions are kept to 10 seconds or less; a smart choice because once you start fiddling with a wearable device for any length of time, it's probably a better idea to just use the phone you have with you for a better experience.

There's an additional benefit in proper app planning for the Apple Watch. The more on-screen time for interactions, as well as more use of haptic feedback for notifications, the shorter the battery will last on a single charge. Apple surely doesn't want inefficient apps hurting the product from that standpoint, so the challenge is on for developers to make compelling yet highly focused software for the wrist.

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