The Apple Watch is the latest item of wearable tech for consumers, and by all accounts popular enough to warrant developers considering making apps for this the smallest of iOS-based mobile devices. Apple execs will not say yet how many Watch units have sold, although it’s possible the number will be revealed at WWDC 2015. At the least, in the USA alone, Apple Watch outsold Android Wear watches globally — over a million preorders (roughly 1.2-2M units ordered by just under 1M customers) in the first weekend of release, in Apr 2015, compared to the ~720K units of Android Wear sold around the world over a six-month period. Of course, it’s still early. Sales of watches for both platforms will increase as prices go down for new versions in the near future.
The number of Watch apps is already increasing. At the end of April 2015, there were around 3,500 Watch apps, according to Apple CEO Tim Cook. Near the end of May 2015, there were around 4,000 Watch apps according to Jeff Williams, Apple’s Senior VP of Operations, As sales of the device grow, demand for apps will of course grow, so this a good time to start planning your Watch apps.
Now, at time of writing, Apple Watch does not have a publicly-available native SDK. That is, Watch apps must be paired with an iPhone app and an “extension”. Although it is not as complicated as it might sound to make Watch apps, and the feature set will increase by the second half of 2015. According to various reports, Williams says that the native SDK that is coming soon will give access to sensors in the Watch. A preview will be made available to developers at the WWDC 2015 conference in early June. If you want to get started designing and developing your own watch apps, the resources listed below should help. If you have no iOS experience, have a look at our iOS mobile app development guide that covers many aspects of building a mobile app for this platform, and links to numerous resources and tutorials.
- Apple WatchKit – This is Apple’s main page for WatchKit, with links to various resources, templates, guides, video tutorials and sample code.
- Apple Watch Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) – This HIG is specifically for Apple Watch and provides in detail what Apple generally expects to see and not see in a Watch app.
- Apple Watch Programming Guide – This guide details the Watch architecture, its features, how it pairs with iPhone, glances and notifications, configuring your Xcode project and more.
- Preparing Your App Submission for Apple Watch – Apple gives developers some tips on getting your Watch app ready for the App Store.
- Apple Watch Technology – This page gives a detailed breakdown of the technology in the Apple Watch – which is important to understand when designing Watch apps.
- App Store Apps: All-new ways to do all kinds of things – Apple itself features over 40 Watch apps — useful for reference and inspiration for your own apps.
- General Apple developer resources – This page has links to most other Apple developer resources that you’ll possibly need for Watch apps, including Xcode, the Apple Swift language, Watch bands specs and much more.
Apps and Blogs
- The Apple Watch Watch — This is a blog all about the Apple Watch, with news, apps, trends, tips, with recent posts warning about using the Watch while driving (to avoid driver’s license penalties in some cities), and various best daily practices in using the watch — good for general reference about the device.
- These Are the First 25 Apple Watch Apps — Useful as a reference, this lists some of the first Watch apps, with a brief explanation of the functionality of each – possible inspiration for app development.
- Jake’s Apple Watch World — Another blog about Apple Watch, with recent posts showing a lot of videos, Watch blueprints, and pictures of celebrities wearing Watch – worthwhile as a reference in keeping up with new feature developments and popularity.
- Watch.camp – A Blog About Apple Watch — The name says it all: a blog about the Watch — one of the rare few, with a look similar to early Mac interfaces — with a number of developer tips and related news.
- The best Apple Watch apps: 24 essential downloads — Wareable.com’s list of 24 top Watch apps, filtered from hundreds — which can serve as inspiration for your own Watch apps.
UX, UI, Design and Prototyping
- 42 Apple Watch Design Resources For Your App — AppDesignVault offers a list of over 40 design resources for Watch apps that includes templates, mockups, icons in .psd (Photoshop), .ai (Illustrator), .sketch (Sketch) and other file formats.
- Apple Watch Vector UI Kit for Keynote and PowerPoint — Use this vector UI kit from Keynotopia for Apple Keynote and Microsoft PowerPoint to prototype Apple Watch apps.
- Apple Watch Design Primer — This is a short but valuable run down of the Apple Watch’s basic features, glances, and notifications – useful as an app design primer.
- Apple Watch Notification Prototype .sketch resource — If you use the Sketch desktop software (Mac) for design work, here’s an Apple Watch notification prototype in .sketch format.
- Prott — Prott, which bills itself as a rapid prototyping and radical collaboration power tool for design teams, now supports prototyping for Apple Watch.
- Prototyping Native Watch apps — UXTree gives a tutorial on prototyping watch apps, including instructions on creating UX animations.
- InifitApps Bezel — InfinitApps’ Bezel works in tandem with the iOS Simulator and shows a graphic representation of an Apple Watch.
- Apple Watch GUI for illustrator — Here are vector templates for Watch for those who prefer Adobe Illustrator for app interface design and prototyping.
- iPhone 6 and Apple Watch Resources — This page has free Adobe Photoshop PSD templates for both Watch and iPhone.
- RelativeWave Form — Now part of Google, Form allows you to build native app prototypes right on the device in question, including Apple Watch. (Viewer also available.)
- 5 Important Design Principles for Apple Watch Apps — This post offers some solid design tips for Apple Watch apps, including utilizing the screen real estate of both sizes of Watch, using good typography, taking advantage of glances and notifications and other thoughts.
- The 50 Best Apple Watch Face and App Concepts So Far — While custom watch faces are not enabled as of this writing, this feature will come and this list of Watch face and app concepts may come in handy then.
- Icons for Apple Watch – The Definitive Guide — Provides a detailed guide to best practices of icon design for Apple Watch, including geometries that work and don’t work and why.
- AppCooker — AppCooker is another app prototyping tool for iPhone and iPad that now supports prototyping Apple Watch apps
- ThinkApps for Watch: A Prototyping Tool for Apple Watch Apps — ThinkApps has a no-coding-needed Web-based tool that lets you build a free Apple Watch app prototype in just a few minutes, as well as published case studies for the Watch.
- Designing for Apple Watch: Getting Started — This primer on designing apps for the Apple Watch covers app structure, glances, notifications, interaction options, force touch, layout, color, UI animation and more.
- Marvel — Marvel is a mobile and Web apps prototyping tool with a freemium model (unlimited free projects with limited features) that now lets you to turn sketches and mockups into a viewable prototype on the Apple Watch.
- Xiffe — Xiffe is a web-based mobile prototyping tool with freemium pricing and which now supports Apple Watch prototypes.
- Apple Watch Design Resources — This is a large list from multiple sources of PSD (Photoshop) mockups, UI kits, templates, icons and tools for Apple Watch.
Tips and Tutorials
- How to Develop Apple Watch Apps — This article offers a 5-step general high-level view of the process for developing Apple Watch apps.
- Your First WatchKit Application: User Interface — Tutsplus provides code and a tutorial for building a first Apple Watch app with WatchKit and Apple’s Swift programming language, focusing on the user interface.
- 9To5Mac Apple Watch dev video tutorial — This is a 48+ minute video tutorial by developer Nick Walter — who had a successful crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to create an iPhone app development course — on building four simple Apple Watch apps (as a preview of a full course on Watch app development).
- Make Your First Apple Watch App in 11 minutes – Tutorial — This is an 11+ minute Apple Watch app development video tutorial by Ravin Sardal, with code available on Github.com.
- WatchKit Swift Tutorial – Download Xcode 6.2 Beta and Start Making Apple Watch Apps — This is a tutorial with six videos (totalling roughly 55 minutes) covering the aspects of Watch app development, and the range of steps necessary to build a Watch app that uses timers.
- WatchKit Introduction: Building a Simple Guess Game — Game apps are rare on the Apple Watch, but if they interest you, AppCoda provides a tutorial for developing a simple number guessing game app.
- How to build beaconified Apple Watch apps using Estimote’s SDK & Nearables Simulator — This is a tutorial for a Watch app that uses Estimote beacon/sticker tracking gadgets.
- 5 Developer Misconceptions About the Apple Watch — This article lists some things to know about what the Apple Watch can or cannot do (at time of writing).
- WatchKit Tutorial with Swift Part 1: Getting Started — This iOS tutorial shows you how to create a Watch app, in Apple’s Swift language, which tracks the current value of Bitcoin in US dollars.
- How to Build an Apple Watch App with WatchKit — This is a short tutorial on the process of setting up a Watch app using Apple WatchKit. Parts 2 and 3 provide more details in terms of building an app and some finishing touches.
- Jared’s Code Signing Tips: Apple Watch Edition — Getting the correct provisioning for iOS apps within Xcode can sometimes be a headache and this tutorial provides the steps needed to correctly setup and sign certificates for the Apple Watch, as well as how to delete outdated provisioning profiles from Mac and iOS devices.
- Apple Watch Development, Week 2 — This is a short but useful tutorial that explains how to use a special feature of iOS buttons combined with a regular to effectively produce a 2-wide grid of buttons.
- How To Make Your iPhone App Ready For Apple Watch: Development Tips & Tricks — This Ubertesters article is a short but handy list of tips and tricks for optimizing your Apple Watch apps.
- Apple Watch Tutorial — This humbly-named tutorial shows you how to create a calculator app for Apple Watch.
- Apple Watch Kit Tutorial: How to Make a Stocks App in Xcode — AppDesignVault, a good resource for iOS app design and development, offers a tutorial on building a stock market share price tracker app for Apple Watch.
- Watchkit Tutorial: How to Develop Apps for Apple Watch — Metova offers a development tutorial in Swift for creating a counter app for Apple Watch.
- The 15 Most Important Apple Watch Features — This Mashable post has a nice breakdown of the Watch’s most important features — useful to know for app development purposes.
- Yahoo Mobile Developer Suite — Yahoo’s Mobile Developer Suite incorporates their recent purchase of Flurry’s analytics tools, which can now give you insight into how users use your Apple Watch apps.
- Salesforce Wear Developer Pack for Apple Watch — This tutorial explains how to use the Salesforce Wear SDK for Apple Watch to integrate the Salesforce Mobile SDK for iOS.
- Apple Watch in a Nutshell: A Feature Introduction for iOS Developers — This is a light introduction to the features of the Apple Watch, from the perspective of app developers.
- 8 Things App Developers Need to Know About Apple Watch — This list provides some pointers about facts that Apple Watch developers should be aware — though the first item is expected to change.
- Xamarin Studio WatchKit — This is Xamarin’s WatchKit for Xamarin Studio, which includes templates and extensions.
- Develop WatchKit applications for Apple Watch: What you need to know — TechRepublic gives a reasonably detailed overview of developing Apple Watch applications, including notifications and glances, UI components and more.
- Pinterest: Apple Watch Query Results — Pinterest itself is a general visual-bookmarking site, but a search for Apple Watch gives hundreds of “boards” and results that mostly show off design, things to know about Apple Watch, tricks and tips, and more — all of which can serve as inspiration in Watch app design and development.
- WatchKit FAQ — This is a fairly indepth look at what you can and cannot do with the WatchKit (pre-native SDK).
- First Look: Apple Watch Development — This article provides an overview of Apple Watch app development, including extensions, glances and notifications.