If we name some of the wearable devices and apparels, we can say they are smart Glasses, smart wrist wears, smart arm wears, smart belts, smart head gears, smart leg wears, intelligent skin patches, and finally e-textiles with smart sensors. However, most of them are just forms of electronics hardware with or without operating system of their own.
At developer point of view, we are interested only in the wearable-devices, which have some sort of operating system working on, and have room for app development. Therefore, our interests restricting up to smart glasses, smart watches, and smart body wears rely on or attached with smartphone operating systems. If we look at the market and brands closely, the major players are:
- Fitbit, with its two products in the wearable band segment – Flex and Force
- Samsung Group, with its Gear 2 and Gear Neo 2 smart watches, it has recently announced the launch of Simband and SAMI.
- LG Electronics Inc. it has launched the G Watch, which is compatible with all the Android devices.
- Pebble, capturing 35% of the market, emerged as the leader in the smart wearable band market.
- Apple Inc. it is reportedly launching iWatch later this year or early next year.
- Google Inc.it is truly the pioneer in wearable devices market with Google Glass, Google Glass 2 and Android Wear.
Except the Fibit, all above brands have their own independent OS on the wearable devices and only partially working with smartphone is some special use-cases.
Now, we have precise picture to think of the application development for such wearable devices now and in near future. If we look at the data graph above, we can obviously see that very few apps are available for such devices except Pebble, which is touching 1 K mark. Let’s sincerely drilldown the possibilities and problems on the wearable application development.
Similarity with Tiny Smartphones
Fortunately, we are well aware of the development constraints on the mobile platforms such as small screen sizes, touch gestures, limited processing power, short battery life, disruptive and uncertain connectivity, etc.
In fact, wearable devices inherit the same constraints and even more primitive in one sense. Therefore, our struggles are more on wearable devices than that of mobile platforms. Only differences are lie in the use-cases and form factors of the wearable devices, which are altogether differing from smartphones.
Present Popular Features on Wearable
Unlike smartphones, we would have constant touch of wearable devices and we won’t need them to put or pull from the pockets or wallets as they are attached with our bodies all the times. This very thing offers big advantages against tiny smartphones such as:
We will receive notifications round the clock, may be either directly or most of the time from the attached smartphones using Bluetooth like connectivity. Therefore, we have to consider rich notification parameters in developments as well as in designing. No doubt, voice input for actions are the best form of user experience designing.
For Pebble, you have to consider the extra Pebble application on the smartphones of Android whereas iOS needs only ‘Bluetooth low energy Apple notification center’ registration without any intervention of smartphone app.
For health and fitness applications on wearable, you should have complimentary smartphone app on relevant OS. Otherwise, you won’t be able to see collected data in comprehensive manners like charts and tables.
Hardware fragmentation on wearable are more acute than handheld. For instance, screen shapes are ranging from round to hexagonal to square that is not case in smartphones. Screen types are vary as Pebble has e-paper display and some have Mirasol technology for on-display.
Same the way sensors are plenty of on wearable devices and vary in supports to other devices or other OS of smartphones if attached with them. Therefore, developing APIs accordingly demand hard work from the wearable app developers. If we think of battery life and size, we have real-world challenges there. Some wearable devices operates on low-power mode in certain circumstances so developers have to think of this mode too.
Google glass like devices have some hardware problems during high temperatures and humidity while smart watches can be used in swimming pool or in the shower.
Thus, considering above described hard ware constraints we have to develop application architecture and plan out whether application as standalone or dependable to the smartphone app.
Recently, Google and Apple both have put stress on the contexts of the wearable apps. If developers are not find the highly useful contexts for the app, they won’t be able to market their products. As a smartphone app developer, you know that testing use-cases needs extensive prototyping. Fortunately, all existing wearable devices platforms offer support for such prototyping.
No doubt, for exclusive prototypes we need language independence for standalone apps as well as same language on both wearable and dependable smartphone app. Thus, for Apple devices we have to learn Swift/Objective C/C++ and for Android Java while Windows platform needs C#/ASP.NET framework.
The most important thing in prototyping is availability of Emulators on the respective wearable platforms, as we can’t test frequently without emulator. Same the way rapid prototyping needs frequent uploading of app on the wearable so OS and wearable devices should support uploading of app with least hassles.
Cross-Platform Development Possibilities
As above we have seen that wearable suffering from acute fragmentation, it is natural we developer community eyes on the cross-platform frameworks to extend helping hand. Unfortunately, at present major wearable devices lack presence of browsers so we have cross-platform compilation is the only way to deal with them. Let’s see what happens in near future. However, at present Lujayn is eyeing on the initial steps to take for wearable app development using its impeccable mobile app development expertise and experiences.