A Look Inside Creating An App for the New Apple Watch

lifewatch interaction design prototype

When the Apple Watch rumors were confirmed, everyone at Sourcebits got excited. (We actually had produced our own vision for an Apple Watch, which you can see here.) In fact, we decided to run a company-wide contest to develop an app for the Apple Watch.

We received dozens of ideas – from silly entertainment apps like a high-5 noise+visual to productivity apps like a language translator to health apps and more. The executive team selected a winner – LifeWatch – and we began designing our first Apple Watch app. But before we explain it and walk you through the creation of LifeWatch, a little background on Sourcebits and wearables.

Our Experience With Wearables

We love working with clients that seek our mobile design and development expertise – and they’ve asked us to create awesome apps for the wearable tech market. A great example of a recent project: Vuzix and their enterprise smart glasses. The Vuzix M100 Smart Glasses is an Android-based wearable computer which can be controlled using the mobile app created by Sourcebits. It won the CES Innovations 2013 Design and Engineering Best of Innovations Award. In January, Vuzix raised a $24.8 million investment from Intel, further advancing the business case for wearables.

According to Juniper Research, global wearable device shipments will more than quadruple by 2017, reaching 116 million units. The Future of Wearables is no longer a dream – it’s a reality. That’s why we included wearable tech in our 2015 mobile predictions in January.

Sourcebits Creates An Apple Watch App

Sourcebits developer Chris Dietz – based in San Francisco – came up with the idea for LifeWatch. It’s an Apple Watch app that makes it possible to easily alert a caregiver when you need assistance. And because the watch itself wasn’t shipping for a while (we got the Apple Watch SDK earlier this year), Chris and one of our designers, Serge Belkin, had the daunting task of creating an app based solely on documentation from Apple. They were excited to accept the challenge and dig in.

“We worked to make the LifeWatch experience good despite the restrictive development environment. It was an interesting challenge and we’re proud of the results.”
— Chris Dietz, Sourcebits developer

The Apple Watch offers a brand new user experience for interactions and technologies to select, navigate, and input, suitable for small devices like the Apple Watch. Apple’s human interaction guidelines for the new watch are extensive — everything from glances, notifications, modal sheets, layout, color and typography, animations, branding, plus UI elements as well as icon and image design. To make the most of the new opportunities and create a compelling interaction design, Serge used a new approach for LifeWatch. It’s a valuable design lesson we’ve learned for future Apple Watch projects.

How LifeWatch Will Work

Chris and Serge based their work on two potential use cases while developing the LifeWatch app. Here’s an overview of the app’s features they envisioned for the user’s Apple Watch and iPhone.

LifeWatch Apple Phone app
LifeWatch’s Apple Watch Features

  • Displays a list of emergency contacts
  • Tells the iPhone to send a message to an emergency contact either from SMS or email
LifeWatch Apple Watch app

LifeWatch’s iPhone Features

  • Uses contacts on the phone to gather a list of possible emergency contacts
  • Uses the accelerometer to measure possible falls
  • Sends SMS or email to emergency contacts
  • Sends location data to emergency contacts

LifeWatch Use Case 1: SOS Alert

In the first use case, an elderly user is injured and can’t get to a phone. The user can press a button on the Apple Watch, and her emergency contact, such as a relative or caregiver, is alerted via a SMS message that help is needed.

creating an app for the Apple Watch
  • On Tap:
    The user presses her finger on the SOS Zone. The iPhone then sends an SMS to designated emergency contacts.
creating an app for the Apple Watch
  • Done:
    The green checkmark indicates that the SOS signal has been successfully sent.
  • Animation:
    After the SMS has been sent, the SOS coin rotates and reveals the Done coin.

LifeWatch Use Case 2: Are You OK?

In the second use case for LifeWatch, the user’s iPhone is in her pocket. The iPhone detects that the user has fallen via the phone’s accelerometer. The iPhone sends a message to the Apple Watch asking the user if things are OK. If the response is “no”, a message is sent to the emergency contact saying that a fall has been detected.

LifeWatch use case for Apple Watch app
  • 2a Timeout Screen:
    If a timeout is reached, a message is sent automatically to the emergency contact saying that a fall has been detected. A user can interrupt sending if she taps on the green progress bar.
LifeWatch use case for Apple Watch app
  • 2b Swipe Bad/Good:
    The user indicates her mood by swiping the emoticon’s mouth: swipe down to indicate a good emotion, swipe up to share a negative emotion. Tap to respond.
  • 2c Done:
    The green checkmark confirms the user’s mood has been recorded.

Our Next Steps

Chris and Serge are eagerly awaiting the arrival of an Apple Watch at Sourcebits Headquarters. Then they’ll complete development of LifeWatch and explore its full potential. We hope to make it available soon for testing. Then we’ll consider adding more features to LifeWatch, such as monitoring your heart rate. They are optimistic Apple will eventually remove some of the third-party restrictions on the design and development of apps for the Apple Watch.

We’re also co-sponsoring an upcoming podcast called The Future of Wearables. Hosted by Futurist Heather Schlegel (she recently presented on wearables at SXSW Interactive 2015), the 12-episode series features interviews with mobile industry thought leaders and wearables makers to explore the future of wearables for work, for entertainment, for communication, for learning, for health – and more.

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Creating Apps for Wearables: The Business Opportunity

While it’s still early for wearables and they haven’t yet reached ubiquity the way smartphones have – it’s clear they are the next evolution for human interaction. And however people use wearables – the businesses that deliver great experiences for smart watches, glasses and more will have a huge advantage over the competition. Yes – it’s a gamble. But with the right support, the right idea and the right execution – the payoff could be tremendous. At Sourcebits we’re ready to bring the future of wearables to life for you, today.

  • The wearable tech developer environment is highly fragmented. From glasses to fitness bands to watches and more – which interface is right for your business? We’ll show you where to start.
  • Most wearable apps are just an extension of smartphone and tablet apps – but that doesn’t take advantage of all the opportunities wearables offers. Through our full-spectrum mobile services, Sourcebits can help your app stand out from the competition.
  • Wearable tech like the Apple Watch have very specific restrictions placed on third-party apps. We take the time to do the research and experimentation for you.

If you’re thinking about entering the wearable tech market or have an existing app that you’d like to reimagine, you’ve come to the right place.

Talk To Us

Piotr Gajos, Chief Innovation Officer

Piotr is Sourcebits Chief Innovation Officer. A 2006 Apple Design Award winner, Piotr draws much of his inspiration from film and music, and focuses on leading our Innovation Strategy Workshops, generating new ideas for Sourcebits, and consulting on projects.