Appolution – evolution of killer Apple Watch apps

On April 24, 2015 Apple release its smart Apple Watch. It shipped with a bunch of apps, mainly bringing reduced smartphone functionality to the wrist. Analyst were quick to denounce the $350-17000 device as well as to predict amazing sales figures. As with the iPhone, the success (or failure) of the Apple Watch will ultimately come down to the app ecosystem. To merely get a preview of incoming emails or to review your Facebook notifications during meetings I believe the smart watch will fail. But as it was with smartphones, the emergence of killer apps that transform the way you use the device and enable you to experience a change in lifestyle will lead to success.

Geek’s Toys

What we’ve experienced so far is developers releasing existing smartphone apps in for the smaller screen simplified versions for Apple Watch. The result are many apps that are don’t make it easier–often probably even more difficult–to interact with the app on the watch compared with on the phone. An example would be a recipe app (isn’t it great to browse a catalog of recipes on your tiny watch?), or maybe a real-estate browser, where a smartphone screen is already unable to provide a great experience. Apple Watch pioneers will probably install these apps just to try them out and demonstrate the technical capabilities of their watch. I’d call these apps “Geek’s toys”, the most primitive stage of the app evolution.

Handy tools

A handful of existing smartphone apps, however, add value on the watch. Think of maps while you’re walking: instead of taking out and unlocking your phone on every corner, simply turn your wrist and you know which turn to take. Same goes with tickets, taxi ordering (is it here yet?), gym apps (enter your reps right away), music (skip the skit) and many others. We could call them “Handy tools”. As it is with many handy tools, they are useful and sometimes–maybe more often than not–worth the money; yet, they are unlikely to transform your behavior. You’ll still use the maps in the same way, it’s just a bit more convenient. You won’t order more taxis or use more electronic tickets just because it takes a few seconds less with your watch.

Game changers

The real evolution, or revolution, begins with the emergence of killer apps that change the way you use the app. One example could be a translation app. As somebody is speaking in a foreign language to you, your watch instantaneously displays a translation. Holding your phone in somebody’s face will probably disrupt the conversation. Glancing on your watch should most likely be okay.

You could argue that certain fitness apps already change the way you use them on the watch. First, the watch is much better able to gather data on your activity and second, it’s immediately accessible even while you’re active (e.g. running). However, these features have been available through specialized sports watches for a long time. What’s new, though, is the ‘smart’ of the watch. In rowing, for example, the Apple Watch could link up with all other rowers and instantly provide visual or even tacit feedback to the entire team to optimize performance.

There probably are dozens (or even hundreds) of other areas, most likely also outside of sports, where such applications could transform our behavior and ultimately our lives. Such apps will be required to make the smart watch a success. Therefore, I call them “Game changers”.

What game changers could you imagine?

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