Going Beyond Wearable Curiosity and Into Reality

May 26, 2015

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Let’s be clear. Before going into the do’s and don’ts of wearables and whether or not companies should dive in, the reality of this technology is that no one truly knows all the possibilities wearables present to consumers and brands. What we can all agree on is that the humans interact with our smart devices is about to evolve leaps and bounds.  

While there are the few “wearable pioneers,” many brands are still hesitant to run towards this unchartered territory. Vokal is working with several clients that are "wearable-curious” – wondering what is possible, and even more importantly, what is not possible with regards to these devices. 

Before taking action, there are a few things companies need to know and understand about the wearable landscape and weather exploring applications is right for them, right now.  Similar to the move from web to mobile, the transition from mobile to wearable development brings a different set of considerations. You're working with a smaller screen, less memory, slower processors, shorter battery life. All of these variables play into the solutions mobile designers and developers like Vokal are able to suggest, design, and build for. We have to be more aware of the overall user experience we provide on these 'at-a-glance' devices. 

Connected Intelligence: On-the-Go On Steroids

Wearables that provide the user with valuable connected intelligence, including timely and relevant information, will "make it.” Everything else will become noise and be disregarded as annoyance or duplication.

The Apple Watch developer kit is a great example. They are providing limited access to wearable features because they don’t want app developers ruining the user experience (subsequently the adoption rate and product success) by recreating phone applications on these devices. Users and developers need to understand that the time, place, and way we use wearable technology is very different from the way we use our phones today. 

Applications built for wearables must move away from traditional 'installed apps' to 'contextual notifications,’ and provide users with the information they need in the moment, without having to open an application. Today’s most effective wearable apps must be context-based, designed for quick bites of data with one-step interactions, including bus schedules, reminders, timers, event information, text messages, among others. 

Additionally, brands and developers have to think about smartphones, tablets and wearables and how they work together as one ecosystem. Successful wearable apps should be smart extensions of a brands’ current mobile and digital strategy and should integrate seamlessly with other mobile experiences.  Staying consistent and avoiding costly and irrelevant bells and whistles is key. 

Wearable App Development is a Team Sport:

Working with a seasoned wearable mobile developer is a key first-step in exploring this evolving landscape. At Vokal, our developers have been involved in the wearables space since the first mention of Android Wear and Apple Watch. Many are recognized experts on wearable application design and development and fully understand the challenges and the opportunities that exist. Our wearable “gurus” work with brands to identify how their current business and technology plans will be affected by wearables, and then we guide them through a customized roadmap process to match their strategic needs with their wearable aspirations. 

While pushing out a wearable app too quickly, just so you can say you have one, is certainly not the answer for any smart company, we think a wait-and-see approach can be equally detrimental. By waiting, brands risk being left behind and then may find themselves playing catch up, while the industry and “the moment” passes them by. 

Wearable app development, like any successful digital strategy, is an iterative process that requires building on fresh insights and continued feature enhancements. Set a realistic expectation with your internal champions that this is not a one-time project but a continuous commitment to improve. As wearable computing systems and OS advance, wearable apps needs to be extended to take advantage of new capabilities. 

Brands can begin the process now, by aligning with a digital partner to identify the end-game – what they realistically want to accomplish through a wearable app? After having those initial conversations and taking those critical early steps, digital teams can then create a roadmap that includes a wearable strategy and supports a company’s overall digital strategy, as well as begin to fully explore the exciting possibilities of what a robust wearable experience can offer their brand and their customers.