Application Development

Apple Watch: One developer's experience

As with any hot new platform, independent software vendors sprinted to be at the forefront in developing apps for the Apple Watch. I swapped emails with Kush Parikh, president of PayByPhone Global which makes a parking app for over 180 cities in North America and Europe, to discover how the developer experience panned out.

How did you get involved in developing an Apple Watch app?
PayByPhone is always looking for new opportunities to show technology leadership and innovation, and we were quick to realise the Apple Watch would be one of the most innovative products available to consumers. The idea that users can view their parking at a “glance” or top it up with a quick, nondescript click or two is absolutely in the sweet spot of our parking payment offerings. Innovation, ease of use and the fact that the majority of our customers are using PayByPhone on the on the iOS platform, meant it only made sense for us to target the Apple Watch as our first, robust entry into wearables.

What would success look like from your point of view for the app?
As the watch is tethered to iOS devices via Bluetooth, our measurement of success will continue to be focused on downloads, consumer transactions, and customer satisfaction. The features we offer on the watch are essentially the same as those we offer on the phone - an improved, less stressful parking experience with simpler payment and notifications that tell you when your parking is due to run out/let you top up on the spot.

How different is developing an AW app compared to other platforms?
It is quite different as the screen size is limited.  To build great applications it is important to highlight the strengths and weakness of each platform, and in our case, that means presenting the most relevant information quickly without confusing the consumer with too much detail or too many options.  As such, we have designed it so the experience on each platform is unique - whether the consumer is using the watch, the phone or “classic” PC and tablet options.

Has Apple done a good job helping ISVs?
In our case, Apple has done a very good job helping.  I can speak from personal experience at both my current company and my previous company that Apple offers the best consumer feedback from a product and service perspective of any platform vendor I have worked with over the past decade.  To me, that is the real value and art of the company and why it is such a success. They want to make sure that customers get the most from using their technology, rather than to provide features that do not necessarily benefit the end user.

What about the constraints of screen size, input, power, CPU etc.?
In our particular application and use case, the constraints of the screen size actually highlight some of our key consumer features, so we embraced it in our design.  Considering parking is a true “glance and go” type of application, power and CPU do not offer any limitations to our service.

Can you see watch app developers sticking with one camp or going multiplatform?
As with many other devices, the application developer and ISV community each have their own strategy at a company level. That means there will be a mix of developers who will only develop on one platform, as they have for the iPhone. But there will also be others who will try to broaden their base by going multiplatform. In our case, iOS is the dominant platform for our users, and hence, it will be our first priority for innovation.

What tools did you use?


Paper Prototyping

Watch emulator (watch kit)

Physical watch - 38mm and 42mm

Do you think Apple did a good job with AW?
I do.  From an application developer point of view, Apple has done a very good job, as it usually does, in focusing on consumers - which is exactly what PayByPhone does.  I watched the keynote from Apple as did millions of others and I will definitely be an owner of a Watch, and my first application will of course be PayByPhone.

When did you first get your hands on a working model?
Only our developers were able to get their hands on a working model, and that was very close to the launch keynote. As I understand it, journalists who were at the launch event in San Francisco and Berlin were the first to get their hands on a Watch. We primarily developed on the watch kit.

What are the biggest strengths of the AW?
The biggest strength to me, is its ability to leverage the hundreds of millions of iPhones that are already in the market. It’s yet another platform for developers and ISVs to innovate on as well. For PayByPhone it offers another and more convenient way to manage a consumer’s parking session to give them time back in their day.

And weaknesses?
Considering the watch is not even in consumer hands yet, it’s difficult to speculate on weaknesses at this stage.


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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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