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How to Develop Apps for Wearables: 5 Challenges and Ways to Overcome Them

November 03, 2015 Written by Maria Shestakova, Digital Marketer
According to ET experts, wearable technology will dominate the market in the near future. Unlike smartphones and laptops, wearables are small, always within reach and provide immediate feedback. However, their performance and customer experience depend on the apps you choose. Read on to learn more about the problems and challenges of development for wearable devices.

Handheld devices VS wearables

They both do have a lot in common. Even some problems are exactly the same. The challenges are:
  • Limited functionality;
  • Small screen size;
  • Short battery life.
However, there are several features typical for wearable apps only, like uncertain usability criteria, fragmentation, absence of API standards and the lack of reliable research data. What factors influence application development? Is there anything you can do? Here are the top 5 challenges and ways to improve customer experience.

Uncertainty

Quick interaction is the key reason for creating wearable apps. Having bought a wrist tracker, you can measure your heart beat and check sensor readings straight away. But no proper research on wearable app development has been conducted yet. Thus, most vendors do not know how customers will interact with their applications and such devices. What can be done: In order to find the right solution, you have to experiment with app design and functionality. Try to understand what types of problems your application can solve and who your potential customer is. Study all the available use cases. Consider usability standards. Experts like Jon Michaeli (Medisafe) and Markiyan Matsekh (ELEKS) claim that such apps should be simple and user-friendly. Developers tend to build apps for wearables alongside mobile software, enhancing devices with exactly the same functions and features. However, the computing power of such devices is limited, so user experience cannot be the same due to technical issues. What users expect from wearables infographic

Restricted platform functionality

Apple, Android, Tizen and other platforms provide very few tools for developers. Thus, your project might be realistic on paper, but you are most likely to face challenges while implementing animations or sensor technologies. Ways out: if you want to use animations or the so-called “taptic” options, the “wearable device + smartphone” scheme is essential. Consider cloud solutions; the data exchange process should not take long (there’s nothing worse than waiting).

Small size

When it comes to applications for wearables, size really matters. Vendors naturally want to offer as many app functions as possible, and that’s where things go wrong. Instead, you should start with a few basic functions that will surely work and add extra features gradually. Don’t forget about small screens and limited computing power.

Fragmentation

Wearable technologies are meant for faster interaction. At certain stages (for example, when devices exchange data via cloud platform) software and hardware may fail to work simultaneously. It certainly affects performance and overall user experience. Again, try to deploy basic app functions. You should also use reliable software and hardware combinations, although their number is limited.

Lack of API standards

Application development for wearable devices is a relatively new IT dimension. Every time a new device is crafted, the coding process is carried out individually. As a result, some apps may fail to operate on a particular device. Our tips: many IT companies are currently working on specialized software development kits (SDK) to improve app synchronization and performance. Choose the right SDK and development environment first. Once the API approach is defined, think of the app functions and special features. If you want to create a great app for a wearable device and avoid costly mistakes, here are some things to remember:
  • A wearable is not just a sensor, but a small computer which can process data independently;
  • App development in this case takes a good share of risk and creativity (you never know whether your idea, even the most brilliant one, will eventually come to life);
  • Consider successful cases and usability standards;
  • Work with hardware developers so that the device would support you app’s functionality. Otherwise you won’t be able to test the software and will have to adjust settings for a particular device which basically means extra costs
  • Be realistic and never lose hope!

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