Apple has launched the WatchKit, enabling developers to begin thinking about how they might make the most of Apple’s first fling with wearable tech. With sparingly few people having had the chance to test the device out, the SDK has given MicroScope a chance to better understand how the Apple Watch will work when it is released sometime in early 2015.
The Apple Watch will come in two sizes – 38mm and 42mm, with screen dimensions of 272 x 340 pixels or 312 x 390 pixels respectively. Both devices will have an aspect ratio of 4:5. While there are only two sizes available at the moment, developers need not worry should Apple choose to introduce more. Apple says that objects automatically flow downward from the top left corner of the screen, filling all available space, similar to that of a dynamic webpage. This means developers only need to create one app to run across existing and future devices.
There are strict SDK guidelines in place in order to ensure that navigation through an app is standardised. Applications can either be page-based, allowing the user to swipe horizontally through the various screens on the app, or they can follow a hierarchical format with the user tapping an option on each screen in order to reach their destination.
While a single tap is the primary way of navigating an app, developers can also make use of basic gestures such as swiping up and down. Because the Apple Watch has a pressure sensor, it is also possible to add context menus using Force Touch. Complex and custom gestures are not possible.
In an effort to create a cohesive and continuous expereince, Apple has insisted that apps maintain a black background and advised that apps use the San Francisco font, designed specifically for the watch.
At a glance
Notifications will play a key role in the Apple Watch experience, allowing users to glimpse at information without digging around apps. The dev kit offers two different ways of doing this: First, there are Glances, which are single page extensions of an app, offering timely information. Apple gives the example of a calendar app, showing the next appointment or an airline app, showing gate information. User can access this information simply by holding the device up.
Then there are notifications. These are an extension of iPhone’s notification centre and will offer a limited and a detailed view. A limited notification may be sent from the iPhone to the Apple Watch and if the user chooses to read more, will expand to the more detailed view. Both Glances and Notifications can be customised and upon tapping, will automatically take the user directly to the app.
iPhone not included
It is important to note that the iPhone is the critical foundation on which the Apple Watch experience is built. Virtually all the processing is done by the phone and watch simply renders the user interface. Apple points out that the watch is merely an extension of an iOS app. This is good news for developers who already have an app in existence, but means more work for those with a great idea specific to the watch.