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How developers are making apps for an Apple Watch they haven't seen yet

Caitlin McGarry | March 9, 2015
The Apple Watch is designed to make you healthier and help you communicate more easily, but those lofty goals can't be attained without apps to back them up. Apple has its own apps in the works, like Workout and Activity for fitness-tracking, but the company needs popular iOS app developers to extend their services to Apple Watch. The company rolled out the WatchKit SDK in November to guide programmers and designers through the process, but I was curious: How do you make an elegant app without ever having seen the watch in person?

"For testing we use the simulator, but that's not a very good way to think about how I should be using this device," Case said. "We have a 3D printer and we printed some mockups. How big is it? How much room for buttons do you have? It's hard to test things like the crown, but it helps you think about it somewhat better than just having it on your Mac."

Group collaboration platform Trello will also be available on the Watch with notifications about upcoming project due dates that you can remove or change. The app will also let you create new tasks, or what Trello calls cards, using voice dictation, and respond to comments from collaborators. Trello, which is sort of like the Pinterest for productivity, would be difficult to replicate on such a small screen, and CEO Michael Pryor said the iPhone will still do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to having discussions.

Popular to-do list app Todoist will show you your tasks for the day at a glance, then let you check them off or dive in to see detailed information about each task. The team is also working on a feature that will let you reassign tasks to different days using Siri.

"The biggest challenge is figuring out how to give a user access to their task list in a simple and quick form," Todoist developer Enric Enrich said via email. "Since there is limited space on the watch-face, we have to decide how to concisely show each task's essential information."

Agile Tortoise developer Greg Pierce is behind ultimate note-taker Drafts (a Macworld favorite) and counting app Tally, both of which will land on Apple Watch at launch. Tally was simple: The app keeps track of anything you need to count, like how many glasses of water you drink or cigarettes you've smoked. Pierce said Tally will make use of taps to function — one tap to count up and a force tap to bring up a menu to count back down or reset the counter.

If you already use Siri to dictate notes in Drafts, the Watch version will be similar. While you're on the go, just tell Siri a reminder or a quick idea, then bring it up later on your phone to choose a destination for your note.

The apps "remove the additional friction of getting your phone out of your pocket and seemed like a natural fit, like the Watch is likely to be good for," Pierce said.

No one I spoke to had used the Watch, but everyone was confident that Apple would open up more of the device's functionality to developers in the future.


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