Thinking About What Smartwatches Can Do Well

In other words, what are they good for? What’s the smartwatch killer app?

Let’s assume that the original killer app for the wristwatch (and pocket watch, and other, more obscure form factors thus far ignored by Apple and its ilk) was telling time. I think we can also assume that telling time is in the “been there, done that” rear view mirror view of smartwatch software development, and that the platform is searching for its killer app.

This may be parochial, provincial, a symptom of technical tunnel vision, but let’s go further and assume that the smartwatch killer app is not putting the Apple brand on wrists. Sure, that may be enough for some people.

I’m thinking of the friends who spent a great deal of money remodeling their kitchen. Six months later I visited, and preheated the oven of their six-burner Viking stove to make breakfast scones. The awful smell? A plastic bag full of Viking documentation melting in the oven. Turned out the oven had not been used once since the stove was installed.

But just to be perverse, let’s assume that once the Apple Watch is on a wrist, it should be capable of doing something. Something interesting.

If there’s no single, killer app, what would a small family of violent and felonious apps include?

In his presentation on testing smartwatch applications, Aaron Rudger made the development of conventions governing smartwatch applications sound too obscure and vague for my taste. I commented on this in the first published version of my summary of Rudger’s presentation. I added more comments later on, citing emerging frameworks of relevant thinking by Raluca Budiu and Bruce Tognazzini.

Still, the scope of this discussion is limited to emerging standards, or constraints: the smartwatch application developer’s style guide. This discussion shapes the vessel that will contain the best smartwatch applications.

FunBITS: the Gaming Potential of the Apple Watch,” by Josh Centers, goes further. Centers doesn’t claim a Grand Unified Theory of the Apple Watch. He articulates the gist of what it’s good at—what it is—and then breaks trail in a particular direction. He does not assert that this particular direction excludes others; it’s just the way he rolls.

This direction is gaming. Centers cites a variety of gaming peripherals littering the side of the road, and several Apple Watch capabilities and extensions Apple should consider, supporting the Apple Watch’s utility as a gaming peripheral.

The future is so bright, and yet Centers has not put on this sunglasses. What’s the holdup?

If only…if only we could connect it to something besides an iPhone! If only—dare I say it?—if only Apple would open up its WatchKit and let developers do their worst with the system. (Apple promises access to sensors soon.)

If you’re looking for a partial theory of where Apple Watch apps are headed, Centers has something for you.

Better, if you’re looking for an example of a way to think about where Apple Watch apps are headed, Centers has something for you. Read this way, his article is less vulnerable to argument.