How we threw out most of our features and made a more powerful watch app for photographers.
You may have heard of Apple’s new product; you strap it to your wrist and it will tell you the time, when it’s not telling you that someone has favourited a tweet you were mentioned in, or when it’s battery isn’t dead. As a piece of tech, it’s pretty awesome. It’s sexy, its screen is way ahead of what anyone else has achieved, and its taptic engine is a fantastically elegant notification system. The problem is that everyone wants to be on your wrist, and a lot of them want you to tap your wrist until RSI sets in.
Apple have suggested that a watch interaction should take no longer than a few seconds, perfect for hailing an Uber ride, checking how far through your workout you are, or skipping Ed Sheeran tracks on Spotify playlists. This flies in the face of a lot of conventional app wisdom, where app developers strain to keep you engaged for as long as possible in the hopes of making the user feel faster, happier, more productive. An example all over social media was a CNET reviewer presenting a live demo of the Amazon app, and ending up accidentally purchasing an XBox. Amazon fell into the trap a lot of apps out there have fallen into — trying to do way too much on such a small screen.
This might sound like I’m pretty anti-Apple Watch, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. All of us in the Dev team here at Triggertrap got super excited, and in the middle of March we had a twoday hackathon playing with Apple Watch code in the simulator.
By the end of the hackathon we’d used every toy in the Apple Watch box. We used Siri voice-activation to take photos (my go-to word was “pickles”), a Glance for timelapse progress, a Notification for timelapse completion, and a watch app that featured the most popular modes from the Triggertrap Mobile app.
The Apple Watch app partnered with our Triggertrap iPhone app, listening for a “trigger” command from the watch. This set up had the watch taking care of everything — mode selection, changing timelapse intervals, or self-timer countdowns, then you could hit the button. Great! we thought. No more tapping in numbers on your phone — this couldn’t be easier!
When we started playing with this, reality reared its ugly head, and we realised we too had fallen into the trap. Entering numbers on the watch was not easy, and took forever. Apple’s suggested few-second long interactions came and went. That’s when it dawned on us: the iPhone’s big screen is perfect for entering things like shutter speeds and exposure counts, so why try and fix something that isn’t broken?
That said, nothing is perfect. The problem that comes with your phone being connected to your camera is thattouching your phone might vibrate your camera. This has potential to ruin a long exposure shot. Setting up the exposures with the phone is great, but pressing the big red button could create a potentially image-spoiling vibration.
This is where our Apple Watch app comes in. We can solve the shaky situation by simply taking the big red button from the iPhone and putting it on the Apple Watch. Taking a selfie and need a delay before the watch sends the signal to your iPhone? Dial in a delay up to 10s long and hit the big red button. Easy!
Free of the shackles of having All The Features, code was mercilessly deleted. The long scrolling menu was retired, the tricky time inputs were thrown into the bin. One button and one complication, leaving us with an app that takes absolutely no time to get up and running; open the app, tap the button. The interaction time is fantastically short, leaving the photographer to get on with the business of taking photos — just what we wanted to do in the first place!
Our main take away from adding Apple Watch integration is that paying attention to core functionality results in a watch app being easy to use without the risk of accidentally ordering a new lens. That’s not to say we don’t want to improve on what we can provide through the watch, but by stripping away the excess we’ve created something we believe is incredibly useful to photographers of all disciplines.