A matter of time for Apple Watch

Irish app developers are using simulators ahead of official release in two weeks’ time

Watch out: app developers have had to do a lot of re-imagining to cope with the Apple Watch’s small screen size. Photograph: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Watch out: app developers have had to do a lot of re-imagining to cope with the Apple Watch’s small screen size. Photograph: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

 
Irish app developers are gearing up for the launch of the Apple Watch, with everything from podcast companion apps to travel software planned for the device.

Apple’s smartwatch was announced last September, with further details about the device released at an event in March. The Watch software development kit was made available last November, and software-makers have been busy putting it to use.

However, many Irish app developers are working with emulators to develop the apps to the final stage because the Apple Watch doesn’t go on sale until April 24th. Even then, it will only be available in nine countries, including the UK, which means Irish consumers and app developers who want to get their hands on one will have to try to buy from the UK or US.

This has presented developers with an interesting challenge, with some reports of testers taping mockups of the watch to their wrists to get a sense of the device.

Simulator

However, the watch simulator included as part of the developer kit seems to have sufficed for many of them.

“The simulator does a pretty good job. It’s what I use to test most of my apps regardless of device,” said app developer Jack Leonard. “Obviously it’s still hard to gauge ergonomic and tactile aspects of the app without a physical device, but it provides a good sense of the app, regardless.”

Leonard is working on a music social network app that allows you to share what music you are listening to directly from your wrist or find Watch users around you with similar music tastes.

Although development itself is quite similar, the biggest problem is user interface design. Having to design ergonomically and efficiently for such a challenging screen size requires a lot of re-imagining and reinventing, especially when translating from an iPhone app.

Another thing to consider is short interactions; long interactions mean you have to hold your arm up for extended periods of time. Andrew Conlan, creator of podcast app Network, took this into account when creating the Watch app extension and timed the interactions to ensure they were kept short.

“Apple have provided a lot to developers for the first version of the Watch, far more than was expected, so we should see some really interesting apps on launch,” he said. “It was also a good opportunity to try out Apple’s new programming language Swift to create the app.”

Flipdish’s Conor McCarthy is planning a trip to Belfast to pick up the watch as soon as it goes on sale, and he feels many will be following that path. The company is developing an app that will allow users to browse menus and order takeaway food, with Apple Pay – when available – providing an easy way to pay for food.

However, Apple is said to be encouraging potential customers to buy the watch online. The days of previous launches, when people would line up outside an Apple store for days to get their hands on the newest iPhone, may be numbered.

The lag between the general launch of the Apple Watch and the Irish launch gave developers here some leeway, Dermot Daly of Tapadoo said. The company is preparing its own Watch app, a Dublin Bus timetable that will display real-time information based on your location and frequently used bus stops.

Security

The Watch app won’t be ready for the launch, but because it’s focused on the Irish market, the delay will give the company time to perfect it after the hardware is available.

“The reality is it’s very likely to have no glitches whatsoever but wouldn’t it be a disaster if we put it out and the first people talking about it had problems?” he said.

Reports earlier this week revealed Apple had allowed select groups of app developers to see the watch under strict security conditions in San Francisco. Similar labs are said to have been held in London, with some Irish developers believed to have been granted access. However, those who have are keeping it to themselves.