Apple Watch effect: How a tiny screen has developers rethinking their iPhone apps
Get ready for simpler designs and new features on your smartphone apps, with developers applying the stripped-down concepts they employed for the Apple Watch.
When building an app for Apple Watch, Mikael Berner and his team at EasilyDo quickly learned that their work could carry over to the iPhone.
The EasilyDo developers found it sometimes took too long for users to find the information they wanted in the company’s namesake app — which acts as a virtual assistant by managing your email, calendar, travel information and services like LinkedIn. When you’re wearing a smartwatch, you need to be able to glance down and see what you’re looking for without digging through menus.
Deciding that also made sense on the iPhone, the developers restructured their smartphone app to also be “more micro-moment,” said EasilyDo CEO Berner, showing quick glances of information that’s relevant to what you’re doing at a particular time. If you’re heading out on vacation, it won’t display a menu with all of your travel information, as the phone app did before. Instead, EasilyDo will notify you about gate changes or pop up your boarding pass while you’re in the airport. It then will display your hotel’s address after you land or provide other information based on what you need in that moment.
Apple Watch hasn’t hit the market yet, but its tiny screen is already changing how our iPhone apps look and feel. Some of the simple, “glanceable” functions found on Apple’s first wearable will make their way to smartphone apps, as will more minimalist designs. And it’s not just about making the phone and watch apps work together seamlessly, but actually incorporating watch features — like new functions and different design schemes — in the iPhone. The result, developers hope, is less digging through menus and a streamlined experience for users.
“A large population is going to get used to the nibbling the watch lets them do,” Berner said.
Not all companies will make tweaks to their iPhone apps that are obvious to users, but others, such as EasilyDo, American Airlines, BetterWorks, Citi and Evernote, are making changes to their main phone software because of the watch.
Apple Watch, which Apple first unveiled in September, costs $349 to $17,000 and hits the market on April 24. The device — which comes in three models, two sizes, a couple metal finishes per model, and with various bands — requires an iPhone 5 or later device to operate and can do very little when not connected to a smartphone.