Four things app developers should take away from Apple's Guided Tour video for the Apple Watch

Shane Schick

Who exactly is supposed to watch this "Guided Tour" video that Apple has made for the Apple Watch, and when?

If it's consumers, presumably the video would serve as a sort of multimedia owner's manual, though it might help to demonstrate how to properly recharge it. If it's to help media outlets explain the device, four minutes and 45 seconds is a little too long. And if app developers are the intended audience, there are really less than a handful of things you really need to think about.

With a voice-over that sounds suspiciously like the one you hear on airplanes when they run through the pre-flight safety instructions, the video strikes a weird balance between tranquility and a sort of delighted excitement about the Apple Watch's key features. Given that Apple only recently opened the floodgates and invited app developers to start submitting their apps, this clip will probably become a sort of Cliff's Notes of what the user experience will really be like. This is what stood out, at least to me:

Swipe up for glances: For those who haven't completely grasped the new lingo, "glances" are defined by Apple as the "bite-sized content you look at most often." This will present an interesting dilemma for some developers. If it's a mobile game, should the most recent score be a glance, or the gameplay itself? For productivity or newsreading apps, it could be status updates or headlines, but will that be enough to drive the same kind of engagement they would see on their iPhones? The Apple Watch may see the dawn of a new mobile journey for app users, from the glance, to full immersion in the smartphone app, to notifications back to the Apple Watch and back again. 

Swipe down for notifications: There is an ongoing debate about the value and distractions of notifications, and the Apple Watch will force more developers to think carefully about how they use them to encourage the right behaviors. This is also a case where constraint had better breed lots of creativity. On my smartphone, for example, I can usually see about five or six notifications at a time without scrolling. There may be far less real estate to make notifications stand out on an Apple Watch.  

Force Touch: "Too many buttons would clutter up the display, so you can press firmly--like this!--to access additional controls," the video explains. Examples included bringing people from a piece of content to a micro-menu with a trash button, or a search button. Developers will want to be extremely selective in how they use this feature, particularly with apps or mobile games that are already well-established with a smartphone audience where the navigation across features is probably better understood. The constant question for iOS development may soon be: "Should this be something we push people to Force Touch?"

Digital Touch: Easily the most intriguing concept in the Apple Watch, the company describes it as a way to connect to "people you care about" and send a sketch, tap or even their heartbeat. In other words, this is the most social element of the device, and it presents a throw-down of sorts to developers who devise a way to make it seem native to their app's experience. That's the trick with Apple Watch: The best iOS apps and mobile games over the next year will probably seem like they couldn't have existed without it.--Shane