Mobile devices are now a part of everyday life, and just as businesses caught up with this trend and started developing mobile apps, industry innovators released wearable technologies. Now, this market is growing at an unprecedented rate. According to a recently published report from IDC, the worldwide wearables market grew 223% in Q2 2015 compared to the same time period in the year prior. Obviously, Apple and its Apple Watch were largely responsible for the massive increase in shipped wearable units, but the point remains the same: Brands must create wearable specific apps.
"If businesses do not experiment with wearable apps, they will become irrelevant."
In fact, Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, told Wired that if businesses do not experiment with developing and offering mobile apps for Android Wear, Apple Watch, Google Glass, Samsung Gear and many other wearable devices, they will become irrelevant in a consumer market that is increasingly moving to a broader "digital experience" that includes wearables, smartwatches, connected cars and smart home appliances. Of course, this won't be easy, since mobile app testing and development for wearables is a much different process compared to creating smartphone apps.
Many of the differences between wearables and smartphones carry over to their associated mobile apps. Obviously, the screen size of a smart watch is much smaller than a phone's – especially phablets – and wearables often lack buttons that have become such important aspects of mobile app design. Therefore, wearable apps must be created from the ground up with those considerations in mind.
Additionally, mobile apps are not stored on the wearable device – they live on smartphones and are accessible via the smart watch or glasses. This means that fragmentation is an even bigger problem, as consumers will use different combinations of wearables and smartphones.
Then, there are performance considerations. Developers and QA testers might have optimized their brand's mobile app for a variety of smartphones and tasks, such as having the app continue perform while individuals use other features and answer calls, but smart watches have a whole different set of interactions and connections that developers need to worry about.
And lastly, the small details matter. Battery life on wearables varies drastically – and are very different from smartphones – and Android's guide for developers highlighted the fact that Android wearables don't support some specific APIs such as android.appwidget, android.app.backup, android.webkit and more.
All of the differences between smartphone and wearable app development should be laid out and carefully accounted for by brands. In such a ripe market, they need to ensure that their wearable apps are performing exceptionally, as these first years of wearable adoption will be critical in the formation of positive public opinion.
Android's guide for developers suggested that professionals use "real hardware" when using mobile app testing solutions. This will help a great deal in creating an optimal user experience and gauging the performance of the mobile app.
Furthermore, Wired explained that iterative development might be the best choice when brands dip their toes into wearable apps, as advancements and updates to hardware and software will certainly come at a frequent rate in the next 12 months. Mobile app monitoring can help businesses assess the functionality of their wearable apps as they are used, while mobile app testing will guarantee that apps still work with new software and hardware versions.