Modern smartwatches are much more than just gadgets that can show you the time or notify you when somebody has sent you a message. Their functionality is growing broader, thanks to progress in IoT technologies and smartwatch app development. Wearable devices have already become an integral part of life for many of us. And we can assume that with a constantly expanding array of new features, their popularity will only grow with time.
In this article, we’ll offer a survey of some general trends in Android and Apple Watch app development and the key challenges involved in building this type of software.
Smartwatch app market overview
To begin with, it’s important to note that, in general, the wearable technology market, which encompasses smartwatches, fitness bands, smart glasses, smart footwear, and other devices, is thriving. The market size was $61.30 billion in 2022 and is forecast to rise at a CAGR of around 14.6% within the period 2023 to 2032, reaching $231 billion in 2032.
The smartwatch market alone is steadily growing. In 2022, it was valued at $33.21 billion, and this figure is projected to hit $130 billion by 2030. That translates to a CAGR of more than 18%.
According to experts, the highest rate of growth will be in the healthcare smartwatch market segment. This is explained by the fact that wearable devices, including smartwatches, have huge potential for use in monitoring health factors. Thanks to such technologies, healthcare providers can continuously measure and track parameters such as blood pressure, heart rate and more, to keep an eye on the health conditions of their patients.
Popular smartwatch apps
Let’s consider some such solutions that have already gained popularity on the market and continue attracting new users.
- ParKing. This is an app for Android wearables that can help drivers avoid that annoying dilemma of forgetting where they parked their car. You only need to launch the app on a smartwatch and tap once to save the location, making it a snap to find the car later using Google Maps.
- Take Notes: Google Keep. This wearable app is well-known to many smartphone users, and is also available in a web version. The version for smartwatches allows users to get immediate access to their notes on the go and to add notes directly to their watches. Thanks to syncing via the cloud, these notes can be viewed from all of the user’s other devices as well.
- Water Drink Reminder. This is a great app for people who forget to drink enough water and want to be reminded to stay properly hydrated throughout the day. The app runs on your smartwatch and smartphone and simultaneously generates reminders on both devices.
- Nike Run Club. This product can be downloaded as an Apple Watch app but it is also compatible with some other popular wearables. The application traditionally occupies a high ranking among popular solutions for running. It can track many vital stats such as speed, distance, heart rate, and others. There are also various coaching plans that can be customized in accordance with users’ individual needs. Running and other sports apps for wearables are gaining popularity among fitness lovers and professional athletes. To learn more, read about the role of such applications in the sports industry.
- Headspace. This is a wearable app that offers various types of meditation and breathing sessions. For those who are trying to reduce time spent on a smartphone, such an application can be an excellent stress-reducing alternative.
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Smartwatch app development trends
The key trend in building solutions such as an Apple watch app or applications for Android wearables is enriching them with more features, especially those that reduce the time it takes to fulfill various tasks.
Duplication of smartphone functionality
Today, smartwatches can offer practically the same experiences as mobile devices but cost less and often do things faster. For example, you can receive notifications and send messages directly from your smartwatch. Some wearables have YouTube support, while others help users track their physical vitals. There are also devices that can be used for managing smart home systems via special apps.
Use of advanced sensors
If you are interested in Apple watch app or Android wearable app development and have already studied apps available today, you’ve probably noticed there are a lot of solutions pitched to the healthcare and sports industries. Thanks to the sensors featured in these devices, applications can get access to data such as heart rate, blood oxygen level, respiration rate, etc.
Many are enriched with new sensors that are much “smarter” than what was available just a few years ago. Now sensors are not only able to pass signals but may also be able to process them. Some are even AI-powered. This means that some sensitive information can be analyzed directly by sensors without the necessity to transfer it to other system components.
Engineers are also working at making sensors more power-efficient; some models can use solar energy to function.
Voice commands and gestures
The screens of wearables are usually significantly smaller than smartphone screens. That's why, quite often, it’s not easy to design easy interactions. Developers need to look for better variations. In many cases, gestures and voice commands are an excellent alternative to traditional interactions via taps and button presses. Though gesture control isn’t new, it’s much more powerful and advanced today. For example, there are apps on smartwatches that allow users to execute remote control over smart TV or other devices with the help of voice commands and gestures.
Implementation of AI
The use of AI capabilities in software solutions has become one of the most popular trends. In smartwatch app development, AI features can be used to provide recommendations to users, create personalized content (for example, meditation plans or training sessions), as well as analyze collected data.
Android Wear and Apple Watch solutions
Before you proceed to planning the process of building your Android Wear or Apple Watch apps, it will be crucial to define the core differences between them.
Android wearable apps
In this case, data input and output are powered by context awareness and voice control. There are two key functions, Suggest and Demand, that should be taken as a base for UI design. The Demand function acts as an app launcher that should react to the queries received from users. The Suggest function presupposes using cards that display a relevant piece of information. The use of these stream cards is the main peculiarity of such wearable apps. It is necessary to think about possible situations for using your app that will ensure the creation of the right content for them.
Apple Watch apps
One solution is the iPhone app extension which should be taken into account at the stage of software development. Among the available interaction methods, we should mention Side Button, Digital Crown, Gestures, and Force Touch. There are several principles for organizing the interaction with these wearable applications. It is highly recommended to use notifications that can appear in long-look and short-look forms, use glances that demonstrate the most important info, and use complications that provide people with the most frequently required tools.
In general, the nature of these wearable platforms is absolutely different. While Apple Watch apps can’t be used without an iPhone, Android Wear apps can be fully operational without a smartphone.
How to build a smartwatch app
Wearable app development involves several important steps that will help you to create a fully functional app.
Step 1: Planning
At this stage, you should develop a full vision of your wearable app. You need to understand what tasks users will solve with your app, and how they will interact with it. It is also necessary to decide how the app on wearable devices will be connected to smartphones or other smart devices.
Step 2: Design
Based on your requirements, designers will create prototypes or wireframes of interfaces. Here, designers will face difficulties related to the fact that smartwatches have rather small screens. It will be vital to make sure that the interface is convenient for users to communicate with your app and fulfill the set tasks.
Step 3: Development
This step includes a lot of coding processes. For building smartwatch apps, developers usually use programming languages such as Swift, Kotlin, and Java. As for frameworks, watchOS and WearOS are among the most popular choices.
Step 4: Testing
This is a very important stage within every Apple Watch app or Android wear app development project. The first tests are often conducted in parallel with development. For the development team, it is very important to find and fix all bugs before the app is released. In apps for wearables, it is crucial to check the compatibility of the app with different devices as well as the correctness of data exchange with smartphones.
Step 5: Release
Once everything is properly checked, it’s time to make an application publicly available. Apps for wearables are usually shared via app marketplaces. For getting approval and publishing your application on an app store, your solution needs to meet the requirements of the platform. We also recommend careful attention to your app description on the stores and ways of promoting it via different channels for ensuring the highest possible visibility among your target audience.
Common wearable app development challenges
The process of building any type of software, including an Android Wear or Apple Watch app, is always associated with a variety of potential risks. But being aware of the challenges will make you better prepared to deal with them. Familiarizing yourself with the list below will help you avoid serious problems on the way to realizing your project.
- Battery issues. With the progress made in smartwatch development, wearable devices are becoming more lightweight and compact. The dimensions of such devices make it impossible to install huge, powerful batteries. So developers need to find the right balance between the functionality of the app and the battery resources required.
- Compatibility. Though some companies prefer to launch solutions for one OS only, given the variety of wearables today, it’s better to offer support for multiple platforms. In reality, it can be rather complicated to ensure that a wearable app performs seamlessly on different devices. To reach this goal it’s recommended to tie a wearable app to a vendor-independent platform.
- Functionality and user-friendliness. While there is a clear desire to enrich a wearable app with as many features as possible, it’s important to make sure interacting with it will be convenient for users and easy to understand.
Industries that benefit from wearable apps
Thanks to the progress made in the tech sphere, wearable applications may have absolutely different functionality which brings real value to various business domains. Let’s take a look at a couple of industries that already today actively adopt solutions for the Apple Watch and other smartwatch models.
- Healthcare. Wearable apps can help users continuously track the quality of their sleep, and physical activity, as well as such parameters as heart rate. All this can be of crucial importance for monitoring people’s health. Moreover, solutions built for wearable platforms can send notifications that will remind users to take a pill or do some physical exercises.
- Sports. Wearable applications are used not only by fitness lovers but also by professional athletes and players. Smartwatches can help to track vitals as well as the exact real-time location of a person. This data is useful for developing game strategy, analyzing the performance of each athlete, and estimating their physical state.
- Fintech. Contactless payments can’t be viewed as the latest innovation and today they come in different formats. Making transactions with the use of the Apple Watch or other similar devices is one of the fintech trends these days. This is a convenient and fast method to pay for products and services just on the go.
Smartwatch app development by Cogniteq
Our team has rich expertise in IoT development services, and creating solutions for wearable devices is one of our focus areas.
One project of this type was an iOS application for Emergency Watch that allows users to trigger an alarm in practically no time when an emergency arises. This wristwatch was designed by Montresa for elderly people and users of all ages who want to feel safe and protected regardless of their location.
The watch has only one button, but there are different scenarios for a single-tap, double-tap, and long-press. Instead of using a smartphone to contact someone in an emergency, a person can use the watch to send an email with coordinates or call an emergency contact. It is also possible to send a command to a smartphone that will play a loud, siren-like sound that can scare off attackers or thieves, or help to find a lost mobile device. The app was fully built and well-tested within just 1.5 months.
The popularity of wearables is rising, especially given trends in smartwatch development. Modern devices enriched with the most advanced technologies can offer users a wide range of opportunities that were unavailable earlier. The task of developers who build solutions for wearable devices is to deliver feature-rich apps with high performance, simple navigation, and user-friendly interfaces.
If you are planning to launch such an app, at Cogniteq we’re always happy to provide our professional help. Thanks to our skills and knowledge in custom mobile app development, we can also build secure and reliable smartphone apps that will act as companions for your solutions for wearables.
How much does it cost to develop a smartwatch app?
The cost of smartwatch app development depends on a variety of factors, including but not limited to the complexity of your solution, the technologies used for it, and the number of specialists involved in your project. That’s why, to determine the cost of your project accurately, it’s important to share your requirements with a development team and ask for an estimate.
What are the main smartwatch app development trends?
The key tendency in Android Wear or Apple Watch app development is making such apps “smarter” and more feature-rich. Other popular development trends include:
- Presenting such apps as copies of applications for smartphones with the same functionality;
- Implementing AI functionality;
- Connecting advanced sensors to such solutions;
- Using gesture and voice commands.