The Apple Watch: A Distraction Free mode for your iPhone

You need an iPhone to use an Apple Watch — but what if the upcoming smart watch makes you use the required phone less?

Ahead of Monday’s Spring Forward event I’m seeing more and more articles exploring how apps may work on the wrist-friendly device, how folks expect to use their Apple Watch in their day-to-day lives and what the watch could be used for going forward.

All of these speculative articles have one common thread — brevity.

A lot of the writing on how people are going to use the watch centres around quick, actionable experiences. A tap here, a glance there. This all leads me to one hopeful belief: the Apple Watch will not only tell you the time, it’ll save it.

Of course, with every new technology we are promised time-saving efficiency and increased leisure, yet “instead of consuming the time-saving benefits”, we find “other ways of filling up the time“.

Now, I’m fairly sure the Apple Watch won’t meaningfully change this pattern. You probably won’t be more productive, just less distracted — or so I hope.

The scenario I outline below is one I’m sure a large number of you can relate too:

You get a notification, be it an important email (that you must look at right this instance, of course) or a pressing text message from a loved one.

What then starts as innocently picking up of your phone to quickly respond, turns into a 15-to-20 minute round trip of your home screen. Double-tapping some fancy pics on Instagram, scanning your Twitter timeline, viewing your latest Snapchats and liking a friends dumb status on Facebook.

Before you know it, a half-hour has passed, your coffee has gone cold and you’ve forgotten what you were working on (and, if you’re like me, you probably never even got to replying that text). Distractions, distractions, distractions.

At least with the Apple Watch, the design of the device will force you into certain behaviour. Can I deal with this notification here on my wrist? Is this worth getting my phone out of my pocket?

Some things will be actionable directly from the Apple Watch — a few taps, and done. If not, ignore for later. For me, that is where the value lies: making snap decisions, and being concise in your actions.

The Apple Watch may just be the distraction free mode your iPhone needed.

NYT: Apple Watch will have power saving mode

A New York Times piece from Brian X. Chen published this past weekend suggests that the upcoming Apple Watch will feature a power saving mode designed to stretch out the devices battery life.

Apple has indicated that the Apple Watch battery will last a full day – something many see as a problem, comparing it to the nightly routine charge required of most smartphones.

Chen’s piece details that one unnamed Apple employee shared details on a unannounced ‘Power Reserve’ feature. The mode is said to run the smart watch on low-energy, only displaying the time on the watch face.

Chen’s piece also looks out how Apple biggest challenge with the Apple Watch lies in front of them: selling them to a supposedly uninterested public.

Advice on designing apps for the Apple Watch

Reuben Bos, Creative Director at Mangrove takes a considered look at designing apps for the upcoming Apple Watch.

The article covers the basic steps to think about, to exploring the challenges posed by a new form factor and deliberating on how people will prefer to use the device.

When designing for the Watch it’s key to be aware of both the possibilities and limitations.

It’s hard to say what will be the killer feature on the Apple Watch. Will it be the actionable Notifications? Will users prefer Glances to the full App? Or will we use a Watch App to read stuff in a way we never expected on such a small device? It probably completely depends on the goal of the App and its users’ preferences.

Image via Mangrove

Thinking about Glances

Mobile strategist Lou Miranda writes that app designers should think of the Apple Watch’s ‘Glance’ ability as similar to the iPhone’s Today view extensions, but with less interactivity.

For those unaware, the Glances interface offers a customisable view of live data from any number of given apps — allowing the user a quick way to ‘glance’ at data from an application, without the need to open it. Apple describe Glances as follows:

Viewed together, Glances are a browsable collection of timely and contextually relevant moments from the wearer’s favorite apps. Individually, a Glance is a quick view of your app’s most important content. — Apple Watch Human Interface Guidelines

Miranda explores how he believes this should be thought of from a design perspective:

Your app can only provide one Glance. So how do you think about a Glance from a design and interactivity viewpoint?

It’s simple. A Glance is a dynamic view into your app’s data. It’s dynamic in the fact that you can update the data (using a timer), but it’s completely non-interactive and confined to a single screen.

The only interactivity is this: a user taps on it, and it opens the app. There can be no buttons or other interactive controls on a glance, and it won’t scroll.

It’s almost like a screenshot of your app’s most important data. In a user-friendly layout.

Remind you of something? Yes, it’s very much like a Today Extension on an iPhone or iPad. But it’s more limited in that a Today Extension does allow some interactivity, although Apple downplays that.

→ An Apple Watch ‘Glance’ is a Today Extension for Your Watch