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How to Develop a Wearable App for Android Wear OS and Apple watchOS?

Alekh Verma | July 14, 2023
wearable apps (1)

How do you feel wearing Apple Watch or Google Wear OS?

Before you answer this question, take a look at the below picture

wearable-app

(Image source: Bloomberg)

This is the Seiko TV Watch which was launched in Japan in 1982 and the United States the next year. This watch created a sensation in the world because it was the first watch that incorporated a television. It was also a stereo FM radio and a quartz chronograph watch.

It got huge fame that Roger Moore's James Bond wore this Seiko TV watch in his famous movie 'Octopussy' in 1983.

If you think wearable device is a hot trend in the 21st century and you feel cool, smart, fitness freak wearing a smartwatch on your wrist, time to rethink on your answer. The concept of wearable devices was already alive and active four decades ago. And the future which was predicted many years ago is now creating a buzz in the market.

For a long time, wearable devices like Apple and Android smartwatches were on the sidelines of smartphones. But very few people were interested in buying a smartwatch as a separate gadget because it was only useful when paired with phones.

But when Android Wear 2.0 was released on February 10, 2017, in the USA, and later in March 2018 when Google released its Wear OS Smartwatches update, these events turned smartwatches into a mature and standalone wearable device.

At the same time, Apple watch also got hit in the market defeating the predominance of Fitbit watches in 2017. And today, around 929 million wearable devices are being used worldwide and the number is projected to touch 1105 million in 2022.

According to the latest report from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, Global shipments of wearable devices counted to 84.5 million units in the third quarter of 2019 (3Q19), with a year-by-year increment of 94.6% and a new record for deliveries in a single quarter.

This is due to the massive use of smart assistants at home and on the phone which led to enhancing the demand for wearables that have the capability to connect with these assistants.

The market for wearable devices is booming. Be it smartwatch, fitness trackers, health monitor, or other wearable solution, wearable technology is expected to roar in the future. So investing in wearable app development could not be a good, not even better, but the best idea for your business.

And this post exactly guides you on how to develop a wearable app for both popular brands Android Wear OS and Apple watchOS.

Let’s get started

What is Wearable App Development?

To understand this, you need to know three key factors in wearable app development:

  1. User
  2. Wearable device
  3. Application or software to make the device functional

User is one who will operate the device and send the commands into it. Wearables are devices which users wear on them like accessories or as a part of clothing or fashion. These gadgets generally connect to a smartphone to exchange data between the network and the device.

Wearable applications are those that receive input or data from the wearables. This type of apps has access to the device's hardware and its different functionality such as sensors. These sensors collect the data and transfer it to the app and then it is programmed for the desired result.

Thus, wearable app development is the process of creating an application or software for the wearable device that provides functionality and capabilities like a smartphone to run different features such as listening to music, making calls, tracking health, sending messages, connecting to a network, or device, and accessing various applications.

What is the Difference between Wearable App and Mobile App?

While wearable applications may appear similar to mobile applications, there are some key differences that set them apart in the following ways:

Device size: Wearables are generally lesser in size as compared to mobile phones which require a dedicated application development approach.

User Interaction: Wearable apps have minimal interaction with users. In the case of a smartwatch or a fitness tracker, the app needs little user input.

Functionality: Hardware components in wearable devices are smaller and consume less power than mobile devices or smartphones. Hence, wearable device apps are used with limited functions at some degree of usage.

Platform: A mobile app can work on a tablet or a smartphone and a wearable app is developed to communicate with apps installed in a mobile device. So wearable apps can't run on all devices but work in connection with mobile apps or alone with limited functionality in the device itself.

Based on product types such as Wristwear, Eyewear, Hearable, Bodywear, and Neckwear, wearable devices can be divided into the following categories

  • Smartwatches
  • Fitness Tracker
  • Head Mounded Display
  • Sports watches
  • Smart Jewelry
  • Smart Clothing
  • Implantable
  • Hearables
  • Body sensors
  • Smart glasses
  • Wearable cameras
  • Gesture control wearables
  • Location Tracker

All these devices are gradually evolving and occupying a significant place in the market. However, smartwatch is the most popular wearable device in such a way smartwatch is boosting the demand for more wearable apps.

Top Famous Wearable Apps on both Android Wear OS and Apple watchOS

  • Calm
  • Spotify
  • 7 Minute Workout
  • Google Keep
  • Uber
  • Cardiogram
  • Google Maps
  • CITYMAPPER
  • Dark Sky
  • Telegram
  • Strava 

Principles of Wearable App Development

Before we started discussing how to develop a wearable application, it is important to know the basic principles that would help your wearable app developer to reduce the development time and cost.

·   Design for Complex Task

Focus on one or two requirements of your target users rather than a full app experience. Don't migrate the whole codebase and put the user interface on the top. Instead of this, discover complex tasks which work better on the wrist and streamline the user experience on Android Wear OS or watchOS.

·   Optimize for the Wrist       

Enable user to complete their task on the watch within seconds to avoid ergonomic inconvenience or arm fatigue. Top iOS developers India consider it the most critical aspect because it directly affects the user experience.

Remember the Selivo TV watch that we mentioned in the above introduction. This device got huge success in the industry but why it could not survive in the market despite having the innovative features is bad user experience.

This TV watch comes with an additional battery and its screen size was also big that cover a wider space of a person's wrist. So people didn't find it much comfortable on their wrist and as a result, they denied this wearable product even it was the first product of its kind.

Therefore, UI matters in wearable apps. You should review the design guidelines for android wearable app development and watchOS app development before coding.

·   Use the suitable surface for the task

Wearable device has its own operating system for performing tasks. Its OS has various surfaces than mobile to engage users, thus, your wearable app should customize its content for those surfaces.

Every surface has its own usage goal. If more action is needed, direct users into your app's full experience called an overlay. See the below example of a weather app for android wear os development

wear os

(Image source: developers.android.com)

Read and understand how your content scales across every surface as per the priority of user needs

·   Add notifications to additional surfaces

In Wear OS API level 30 and higher, Android developers should pair any ongoing notification to an 'OngoingActivity' to add that notification to additional surfaces within the wear OS UI to enhance engagement with long-running activities

·    Provide Offline Compatibility

While a wearable device mostly supports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, it might not support LTE. So you should design your wearable application for low internet connections and offline compatibility such as exercising and commuting when a user leaves their device at home or at a distant place.

·    Provide relevant content

Wearable device remain always with the user more than his or her smartphone. That is why you should keep your app content updated with the user's context, such as time, location, and activity.

How to Develop a Wearable App for Android Wear OS and Apple watchOS

Now time for real action. When you start your app development process for a wearable device, keep in mind that the process is not limited to coding but it involves many different things like:

  • What type of application you want to build (Wear OS or watchOS)?
  • Which is the wearable device?
  • Types of architectures
  • How to choose a reliable wearable app development company?

So why wait then?

Do you have idea? Get Free Consultation!

Step 1: Conceptualize a Wearable App Idea

The utility of wearable gadgets is different from smartphones. You should know what kind of application you are going to build. Identify the needs of your users to understand what features you should incorporate in your app to make the life of users better and simpler.

You should analyze how the availability of a wearable app version will ease your daily job. Search what types of wearable apps are running in the market and what features people mostly like.

Step 2: Research the Market and Competitors

Once you have come up with your app idea, the next step is to conduct deep research in the market to make sure how much viable your app idea is. You can begin by identifying what apps are mostly used or what is needed in the market. Do competitor analysis and come up with unique ways to provide a better solution that attracts users to your app.

Step 3: Choose Type of Wearable App

The functionality of a wearable device differs in many ways and so you should have a specific solution for each type of wearable app. Let's review some of them:

Companion app: This type of wearable application complements other mobile apps. They have limited functionality and need constant data exchange with a mobile app.

Standalone app: Standalone apps are entirely independent of mobile devices. Such wearable app is meant to run on a wearable device itself and requires direct access to the Internet through Wi-Fi.

Glances: This is a sort of card that contains the latest updates from mobile apps.

Notifications: It is limited to show only push notifications from smartphones on the screens of wearable apps.

Mostly, businesses develop standalone and companion apps for wearable devices. These apps have a certain level of freedom from mobile devices and can perform various tasks. 

Step 4: Determine the list of Wearable App Features that meets

You need to decide the features while focusing on:

  • Smartphone module

When we talk about wearable device app development, in most cases, we mean we develop two apps- one for a smartphone and one for a wearable. If you are going to create a standalone app, you will probably need to develop a so-called container app.

Such kind of app involves the setup process and watch app installation. However, the majority of smartwatches can connect to the internet and install the app directly from a store directly.

  • UI/UX controls

There is one common difference between wearable and mobile app development- screen size. As wearable gadgets have smaller screens, it requires a micro-layout. So you can give a great user experience only when you provide the necessary information, limit the usage of buttons to one per screen, and use short text.

Some devices like Samsung Gear series have a rotating bezel that can be used to navigate the menu. The digital crown works a similar feature on Apple watch. Analyze which platforms you are targeting to provide convenient UX/UI controls to users.

  • Voice Commands

Some wearable devices have voice assistants such as Android Wear have Google Assistant, and watchOS devices have Siri.

Therefore, you should integrate their API to add the support of voice commands to your wearable app. It is highly important especially for fitness trackers and workout apps. It enables users to set up timers while they working out and control other features of the app.

Step 5: Choose the Tech Stack

As you have determined what features your wearable app would incorporate, it's time to choose the best technology stack for wearable app development. This stage is extremely important because the frameworks or tools you choose will have an impact on your future app maintenance and its costs.

You should choose a professional wearable app development agency that helps you incorporate the right technology stack, APIs, SDKs, and other solutions. Here is below table that will help you choose the right programming languages and development frameworks for wear os and watchOS app development

PlatformLanguageIDE
Android WearJava or KotlinAndroid Studio
watchOSSwift or Objective-CXcode
Google GlassJava or cloud-basedAndroid Studio
Samsung Gear (Tizen)C, C++, JavaScriptTizen SDK


Step 6: Launch & App Maintenance 

Now you would be excited to have your wearable app fully functional and ready to make noise on the App store. But the task is not finished yet. You have to submit it to app marketplaces and create an app marketing plan to promote your wearable app to the target audience. Once you do it, then you may celebrate the completion of your wearable app project.

The Final Words

Wearable app is a new kind of application in the market that requires an extremely specific development approach. If your app is user-friendly and problem-solving, people will automatically fall in love with it.

Whether it is for Android Wear OS or Apple watchOS, flexible functionality and uniqueness of features are the most important factors to consider to be successful on both OS platforms. As wearable technology is growing rapidly, the demand for more useful wearable apps that supports multiple gadgets will be on the top in the market.

Now we would like to hear from you

What do you think of its future? Are you using any wearable application in your smartwatch or any other wearable device that helps you a lot in your daily life?

Share your experience with this trending technology and let our audience take some knowledge from you. Or

Do You Want to Develop Wearable App?

eSearch Logix is a decade-old company who has immense experience in wearable app development. Our developers have hands-on expertise with multiple types of wearable applications that run seamlessly on Android and iOS devices.

We use the latest technologies including AI & ML, IoT, DevOps, and various SDKs and toolkits to provide innovative and effective wearable app solutions.

Just Schedule a Free Consultation and Discuss Your Project Now

Contact Us

Alekh Verma

CEO and Founder at eSearch Logix Technologies!

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