The smartwatch market has been simmering for years, waiting for Apple to show its rumored “iWatch” hand. Now that the Apple Watch’s capabilities and pricing are out in the open, the rush can begin in earnest. Moving notifications and quick interactions from the phone to a watch might seem like a small change. But basic smartwatch support can be added to apps quite easily and connects users more intimately with app functions while freeing up a hand. Apple Pay and Google Wallet support open up possibilities of paying for groceries, unlocking hotel room doors, and applying loyalty program discounts with only a wave of the wrist. The various platforms offer similar opportunities to app developers, but with a few key differences. Apple Watch Not just luxury (but still upmarket) There’s been much hue and cry over the $10,000 starting price point of the Apple Watch Edition, with its 18-karat gold casing. Functionally, however, it’s no different from the aluminum Apple Watch Sport at $349. That’s still more than most other smartwatches, but consistent with Apple’s computer and mobile pricing.
Using Apple Watch requires the latest iOS 8.2 on an iPhone 5 or newer. The display is not only touch-sensitive but force-sensitive, so a firm press is treated differently than a light tap. The digital crown offers another way to interact with content, enabling quick scrolling and zooming. Android Wear Not just nerds (but still geeky) For Android loyalists, Google’s Android Wear collection includes watches with both square and round designs. They start at $199.
The variety in fashion choices just might give Android an edge in terms of market share, making developing for the platform an important component of any wearables strategy. On the flip side, some Android Wear watches have dials, some have buttons, and some rely wholly on the touchscreen, so interface design is a challenge. Android Wear is a separate app, not baked into the operating system. It does require at least Android 4.3 – making it compatible with about half the active Android devices out there as of March 2, 2015. An iOS app is rumored for the near future, though it probably won’t be able to offer the same depth of integration across platforms.
Pebble Not just one OS Though not the only independent smartwatch vendor, Pebble is definitely the biggest. Its original monochrome watch is still available for $99, and the new color version will retail for $199. Because Pebble watches use e-paper displays rather than energy-hungry LCD screens, they can go up to a week without charging. Apple and Android watches need to be recharged daily. That means Pebble users want a more traditional, worry-free watch experience. Pebble also offers apps for both Android 4.0 and iOS 7, so the vast majority of smartphones are compatible. Do you already have an app and want to extend it to smartwatches? Or a totally new app idea for phones and wearables?