Designing the Same App on Multiple Wearable Platforms

Jon Manning and Paris Buttfield-Addison runs a design-focused session on what and how to ‘watch app’ — not to be confused with mobile app!


This is part of a series of notes from from YOW! Connected conference where leading experts presents their thoughts on all things mobile and IoT.


Now that computers lives on people’s wrist, Android Wear and the Apple Watch are very similar but very different. Designing for both platform requires an awareness of design patterns that they share and don’t share.

Apple and Google have different approaches:
Apple see smart watch as a lifestyle item, an extension to the iPhone ecosystem. Google views the device as another way to search.

These are not incompatible views or ideologies.

Fast instant access to information is the underlying use case. A watch is more intimate than a phone, a watch is in contact with users’ body and attached to users’ limb. That contact allows for a discreet notification from taptic engine which presents less distraction than that of a aural or visual feedback.

Users enjoy spending time on their phone, but hate staring at their wrist. Using the watch means relinquishing control over one of the limb.

The information inferred by smart watch should be glanceable, enabling quick access in short frequent contact with user. A quick review of both Android War and Apple Watch reveals these common design patterns:
5 seconds rule per interaction;
Easily understood graphics, icon with clear meaning; and
Handoff concept sharing task between watch and other devices.

Where they are different:

Android Wear — tries to precog what user wants at the next interaction. For example, at the first interaction in the morning show user ETA to work, then the first meeting they have in their calendar, then next meeting, so on. Context stream which is half notification and half glanceable item. Sorted by how important the device think the piece of information is to you at any given time. Device screen is ALWAYS on. There is an emphasis on voice driven invisible UI.

Apple Watch — primarily concerned with extending what the iPhone does for you, but being a watch/fashion accessories first. Note the variety of straps and range the watches are available in. Most of the apps interaction are consistent with their iPhone counterpart but smaller. Terminology used by Apple: glances = summary of contents, complications =bits that does not tell the time. Apple Watch goes into ambient mode to conserve battery when not in use.

Jon and Paris singled out Foursquare as an example of a good watch UX.

The app primarily concerns itself with answering one question and that is ‘what is the best X near me?’. Search result listing UI puts emphasis on rating, showing only critical information, with elaboration available on demand thus achieving minimum complexity and maximum usefulness.

Takeaway from the talk: Android Wear as Google’s product put the focus on content rather than app. Hardware-wise Android Wear as it stands currently are more technologically advanced. However, Apple presents it’s product in a more polished manner, more delightful UI UX experiences.
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