The Influence of The Apple Watch oDesign

4 emerging trends and 3 things to worry about

Every few years a new technology, form factor, or design philosophy has a major impact on the shape of design. In the last decade smartphones changed the landscape of user interface design. Smartphones influenced design patterns and standards for preceding digital mediums like web and desktop applications. It sparked the downfall of incumbent technologies like Flash, and necessitated the rise of others like HTML 5.

Although it is hard to determine if the Apple Watch will have anywhere near the impact the iPhone had on design, it is apparent that wearables will increasingly implicate user interaction with digital technology.

4 emerging design trends that are accelerated by the Apple Watch:

1. The Changing Web

Web design adapted to mobile devices through the rise of dedicated mobile websites and responsive design. HTML 5 increased the possibilities of web design, enabling the ability of a web page to function like a native mobile app. The design patterns that developed for mobile then influenced the patterns seen on desktop displays.

The Apple Watch doesn’t have a web browser, so the concept of a specific responsive break-point or a dedicated watch website seems a little ridiculous. There very well could be a web browser at some point. However, the browser is a barrier to using the web. The Apple Watch is for interactions that last seconds. No time can be wasted accessing content or an interaction.

Apple Watch apps will use the web to fulfill content and interaction needs within their native shell. It is possible that the Apple Watch will kill the web browser as it influences mobile and desktop standards.

2. Low-Intensive Interaction

The watch is great for low-intensive interactions. The key functions of the app should be the only thing a designer focuses on. Anything that increases load-time, gets in the way of the interaction, or isn’t clear will wreck the experience.

Uber is a great example of an app that is stripped-down to its essentials. Uber’s iPhone app does a wonderful job focusing on the task at hand in an elegant way. This has extended to the watch app. Instead of showing a map view with multiple car types and location options, the watch app presents the most typical use — hailing a car at the user’s current location.

Uber’s Apple Watch App

3. Voice

Voice is the future of the Apple Watch. Since the screen isn’t large enough for touch interactions to be very efficient, voice commands will encompass many interactions once users adapt and the technology expands.

4. Handoff

The average iPhone user pulls out their phone well over a hundred times a day. Watch usage can reduce the time a user needs to spend on their iPhone. Instead of checking their iPhone all the time, users can outsource the quick interactions to their watch. A successful Apple Watch app will complement, reduce, and expand the possibilities of its iPhone counterpart.


3 things to worry about:

1. Addiction

Smartphone addiction has been the focus on many studies. Nomophobia is the fear of being without a mobile device. The phobia affects 40% of smartphone users. Wearable technology is a way to relieve the fear of being disconnected. If the watch becomes an overwhelming success, the rise of new hyper-addictive apps is probably upon us.

2. Cancer

When the first smartphone came out people were worried that the device may cause cancer or health issues because of its close proximity to the user. Wearables could pose a new threat because users actually wear the devices.

3. Privacy

Wearables go wherever the user goes, and has the potential to collect intimate health related data. This is by no means a new issue considering the level of data that can be collected through the use of almost every digital technology. Wearables poses a new dynamic to the ever expanding data collection by governments and large corporations.


It will be interesting to see if any of the design patterns that develop for the Apple Watch influence the smartphone and desktop. A watch-first approach could help improve existing mobile apps, much like mobile apps aided the design of the PC and web apps.

Wearable technology will most likely change the digital design landscape. The Apple Watch might be the beginning of a paradigm shift that elevates users to a new level of connectedness that changes what it means to be human… or maybe it is just a passing trend. No matter what happens, the language of design will expand with this new medium.