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Wearable App Development: Architectures, App Types, Business Opportunities [2021 Guide]

25 min read
Wearable App Development Guide for 2021

The market of wearable devices is on the upswing.

Smartwatches, wristbands, health monitors, and other solutions are projected to soar in the future.

The number of wearable connected devices is expected to reach over a billion by 2022.

This article discloses all the aspects of wearable app development. The guide gives answers to all the questions you might have about the process of wearable application development.

Here is what you’ll learn in the article:

  • the difference between apps for wearables and mobile
  • key wearable platforms
  • the most successful wearable applications
  • why create a wearable app & business benefits
  • industries benefiting from wearable apps
  • wearable app development step-by-step guide + architecture analysis
  • ways to avoid pitfalls of wearable application development

Let’s dive right in!

What is Wearable App Development?

What is Smartwatch Application Development?

Before we talk about how to create a wearable app, let’s first answer an important question: What is wearable app development?

Wearables are devices that users wear on them like accessories or as a part of clothing. These gadgets usually connect to a smartphone to exchange data between the network and the device.

Wearable applications are those that receive data from such wearable devices. Apps of this type have access to the device’s hardware, such as sensors. These sensors collect the data and transfer it to the app, which is programmed for the desired outcome.

Today, the market of wearables is full of different solutions. Smartwatches, activity trackers, fitness bands, and even smart glasses have already taken a significant place in our everyday lives. Their popularity is projected to only grow in the upcoming years.

The Difference Between Wearable and Mobile Apps

While wearable apps might seem similar to mobile applications, there are a few differences that set them apart:

  • limited functionality as compared to mobile applications
  • fewer user interactions and inputs are required
  • a lot of processes are happening in the background
  • wearable apps are not cross-platform as they are using device-specific APIs

Examples of Key Wearable Platforms

Examples of Wearable Devices

As was already mentioned, there are numerous examples of wearable technology. Let’s take a quick look at the most popular types of wearable devices today:

  • Smartwatches – one of the most popular wearable devices in the world. Smartwatches eliminate the need to always keep a smartphone on you. Such devices undertake numerous tasks, such as sending and reading messages, showing notifications, setting up alarms, track physical activity, and much more.
  • Fitness trackers – devices are used for monitoring physical activity, such as track the number of steps taken, calories burned, heart rate, sleep, and much more. Today, fitness trackers offer a part of features offered by smartphones, such as displaying notifications. Head-mounted displays – VR glasses are the most explicit example of such devices. They can provide as monitors or provide users with AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) information.
  • Smart jewelry – the most prominent example of smart jewelry up to date are smart rings. These tiny devices are used to track physical activity and collect information that is transferred to a smartphone for further user interaction.

There are also other types of wearables that are less popular, such as smart clothing and implantable.

Wearable app development has high importance for the healthcare industry. Glucose monitors help patients track their glucose levels. Different diagnostic ships are used to identify muscle activity, body temperature, chronic diseases, and much more.

Explore the image below demonstrating what data wearable devices can collect when used in the healthcare industry.

Top-10 Wearable Applications

 iOS and Android Wear App Examples

Wearable technology has already become an integral part of our lives. Wearable applications serve different purposes such as helping users plan their days, track physical activity, monitor sleep and much more.

Here, you can find the ten most prominent examples of wearable apps with millions of users all over the world.

Let’s get some inspiration for your future application.

1. Calm
This application is designed to help users relax and have better sleep. For this purpose, the solution provides calming music, images, and breathing exercises for meditation purposes.

Supported platforms: Android Wear, watchOS

2. Spotify
This popular application for music listening has a version for wearable devices. Users can leave their smartphones at home, go for a walk or a jog and listen to their favorite music. The wearable version has a lot of features, allowing to create playlists, share them with friends, find new music, and control it right from the wrist and their smartwatches.

Supported platforms: Android Wear, watchOS

3. 7 Minute Workout
This application is a hit among users who don’t want to spend hours on workouts. 7 Minute Workout app offers 12 high-intensity exercises with calculated workout and rest periods. Users can work out at their homes and select an appropriate workout schedule tailored to their personal physical needs and capabilities.

Supported platforms: Android Wear, watchOS

Interested to know more about workout app development?

Check our article explaining the topic in utmost details

4. Google Keep
Google Keep is available on a number of devices, including wearables. This solution allows the creation of notes on a smartwatch without pulling a smartphone from your pocket. Aside from notes, users can set up reminders, create shopping lists, organize notes by types, etc.

Supported platforms: Android Wear, watchOS

5. Uber
Uber also has a dedicated application for wearable devices. With the help of a smartwatch, users can book a cab, check the status, share your ride details and even call emergency services.

Supported platforms: Android Wear, watchOS

Wearable app development is no longer limited to creating a workout application. The list and app examples above clearly demonstrate that wearable applications can be used across various industries and serve various purposes.

6. Calculator
Taking a smartphone from your pocket just to use it as the calculator is frustrating. Thankfully, there is a wearable application that owners of smartwatches on Android Wear can use for the task. Aside from basic calculations, it can be used for scientific calculations, such a trigonometric, square root, and other functions.

Supported platforms: Android Wear

7. Cardiogram
Cardiogram is a great example of a wearable app used for healthcare purposes. This solution, available for both Android Wear and watchOS, tracks sleep, stress, fitness activities and minute-to-minute heart rate. The application also shows possible reasons for any identified irregularities in the heart rate of a user.

Supported platforms: Android Wear, watchOS

If you want to create an app for healthcare purposes, check our article for a detailed guide:

Healthcare Mobile App Development: Step-by-Step Guide with Business & Technical Insights

8. Telegram
Free messaging solution also provides a wearable version of its application. Despite somewhat limited functionality, users can view their recent chats, react to messages with stickers, emojis, preset phrases, locations or even dictate answers with their voice.

Supported platforms: Android Wear, watchOS

9. Strava
One of the most popular fitness applications both on mobiles and wearables. This solution tracks running and biking sessions. The app uses GPS and LTE to track the route so that users could leave their smartphones at home. The list of features is wide and includes the tracking of the riding speed, covered distance, elevation, and calories burned during activities.

Supported platforms: Android Wear, watchOS

10. Google Maps
The famous maps service is also available on wearable devices. The app can navigate users to desired locations, measure distance, offer alternative routes, and much more

Supported platforms: Android Wear, watchOS

As you can see, a lot of industries can make use of wearable applications. The list above and the apps mentioned clearly demonstrate that wearable app development can be useful for various businesses.

The Most Promising Industries to Create Wearable App

Wearable app development can benefit businesses across different spheres. Let’s review some of the industries that are already using wearable applications.
The Most Promising Industries to Create a Wearable App

Healthcare

Wearable devices are a valuable asset for the healthcare industry. They help doctors to monitor the health of patients and diagnose diseases. Such devices use different sensors to collect health data, monitor heart rate, glucose levels, etc. The main goal of such applications is to improve the quality of healthcare services and timely diagnosis of even rare diseases.

Wearable devices for healthcare can be represented in different forms, including smart bands, glucose monitors, diagnostic chips, cardiac monitors

Examples: VeriSense, Aira Tech, Quardio, Hexoskin

Fitnes

Wearable applications of this type are the most common on the market. Fitness applications allow users to track the state of their health and body. Smartwatches and fitness trackers provide the necessary tools to keep track of physical activity during workouts, jogging, and daily tasks, calculate calories, measure distance covered, and much more.

Examples: Strava, Runkeeper, Google Fit, Nike+

Outdoor Navigation

Google Maps is a great example of navigations apps that have a version for wearables. There is a lot of potential for such solutions since more and more smartwatches and fitness trackers are equipped with GPS, gyroscopes, and other technology. Thus, you can build outdoor navigation applications that are fully independent of smartphones.

Examples: Google Maps

Messaging

Thanks to smartwatches, leaving your home without a smartphone doesn’t seem impossible today. The availability of messaging applications makes them even more useful since users don’t need to take, they smartphones out or check messages even if a smartphone is left behind.

Examples: Telegram, Coffee, Skype

Education

Wearable devices are not limited to smartphones. Such applications can be created for augmented and virtual reality glasses, such as Google Glass, and used in education. AR and VR allow students to explore the world, examine molecules in detail, study diseases and the human body.

Examples: ImmerseMe, Ocean Rift, Mondly

Entertainment

Wearable devices are used for a number of reasons, one of them is to listen to music and podcasts while commuting, running, or working out. You can approach the task of building the next Spotify for your smartwatch in different ways.

Examples: Spotify, Apple Music, Shazam

Insurance

the insurance industry is highly plugged by fraudulence. Insurance companies could benefit from wearable devices if they could get data from smartwatches and fitness trackers. In fact, such solutions already exist, like the cooperation between UnitedHealthcare, an insurance company, and Fitbit, a company behind a fitness tracker.

Examples: Attain,

Fintech

The banking system can also benefit from wearable technology. Today, smartwatches and fitness trackers are equipped with NFC sensors that enable contactless payments.

Examples: Apple Pay, Google Pay As you can see, wearable applications are finding use across different industries.

Do you have a wearable app idea?

Reach out to us to get a consultation from experts with relevant experience in the field. If you have any questions, just follow the link below.

How to Create Wearable App: Exhaustive Guide

Before you start wearable app development, you need to take care of a number of tasks. The process is not limited to coding. You need to understand what type of application you want to create, different types of architectures, and how to choose a reliable wearable app development company.
Step-by-Step Process to Create a Wearable App

Here, you learn how to create a wearable app step by step.

Come Up with an App Idea

So, you’ve decided to create a wearable application. Do you already know what type of app you are going to create? If the answer is no, you can easily make the right decision.

Identification of users’ needs will help you get started. Wearable applications are designed to make the life of users better and simpler. You need to understand how the availability of a wearable app version will help you do the job.

Pro Tip: If you are stuck at finding an app idea, don’t give up! There are a lot of applications in the app marketplaces that can become your inspiration.

Research the Market and Competitors

The next step of wearable app development is research and analysis of the market and competitors. You can start by identifying what applications are popular right now in your target region and analyzing their strong and weak points. You will learn a lot about your competitors and come up with ways to provide a better solution that users will fall in love with.

After you have all the data, you can organize it into a business model canvas to stricture all your thoughts and ideas.

Find a Wearable App Development Vendor

You can create a wearable app by yourself or hire a software development company. The first option requires deep technical knowledge, coding experience and understanding of wearable app development. If you decide on the second option, you will be able to concentrate on the business part of your business, decrease risks and entrust the development process into the hands of professionals.

There are a few tips that you can utilize to find the best vendor for your project:

  • Shortlist app development companies – start looking for a wearable development company. You can start the research by visiting such platforms as Clutch, ITFirms, etc. They contain information on thousands of companies from all over the world, allow to filter companies by region, price tag, relevant experience, etc. Such platforms are a great place to shortlist the companies for further works.
  • Identify the best prospects – you have probably found hundreds of companies that might seem great for your project. In fact, not all of them will do the job. Identify companies that have a magic combination of relevant experience, great customer reviews, competitive price tag favorable location.
  • Interview prospects – after you’ve successfully identified up to 10 prospects, you need to learn more about them. At this point, you need to get in touch with your prospects and interview them personally. This way, you will be able to judge how they work with each client, which approaches to choose and spot any cultural differences that might grow into problems in the future.
  • Make your choice – when it’s time to make your choice, choose a company based on the communication approaches, location, pricing tag, and the availability of previous relevant experience.

Do you need a detailed guide on app development outsourcing?

Check the article prepared by our team to learn how to make the right decision and circumvent costly mistakes:

Choose Wearable App Type

There are a few possible solutions that you can build for a wearable device. They differ in the way they operate, their independence from a mobile device, and their functionality. Let’s review some of them:

  • Standalone app – such a wearable application runs on a wearable device itself and has a direct connection to the internet through Wi-Fi. Standalone apps are fully independent of mobile devices.
  • Companion app – such wearable apps complement mobile applications. They have limited functionality and require regular or constant data exchange with a mobile application.
  • Faces – this is not an app but a custom lock screen created for a smartwatch.
  • Glances – such cards contain the latest updates from mobile applications and are available to users at a glance.
  • Notifications – such solutions are limited to only showing push notifications from smartphones on the screens of wearable applications.

In most cases, businesses develop companion and standalone applications for wearables. Such apps have a sufficient level of independence from mobile devices and can perform numerous tasks. Wearable apps also differ when it comes to installation methods:

  • They can be installed from a wearable apps store
  • They can be installed from a smartphone
  • Not installed, meaning an app on the phone sends information to the wearable

You need to understand what type of application you are going to create before you start the development. This way you will avoid unnecessary re-doings and save a lot of time and money.

Decide on the List of Features

Let’s review some of the most common features used in wearable app development.

  • Smartphone module

When we talk about wearable app development, in most cases, we talk about the development of two apps – one for a smartphone and one for a wearable. If you decide to create a standalone application, you will probably need to develop a so-called container app. Such an app carries out the setup process and watch app installation. However, the vast majority of smartwatches can connect to the internet via Wi-Fi and get an app from a store directly.

You can also create a companion app for an already existing mobile application or develop both the companion app and the mobile app simultaneously.

  • UX, UI, and controls

When we compare mobile and wearable app development, there is one obvious difference – screen size. Wearables have tiny screens that require micro-layouts. You can only provide a great user experience only if you provide the necessary information, limit the use of buttons to one per screen, and use short text.

Some devices, such as the Samsung Gear series has a rotating bezel that can be used to navigate the menu. The digital crown performs a similar feature on Apple Watch. You need to understand which platforms you are targeting to make good use of them. This way, you will be able to avoid using unnecessary on-screen elements.

  • Navigation

As mentioned before, you can use the basic navigation implemented by wearable manufacturers to create a great user experience. For example, the vast majority of smartwatches have their own gestures for moving between screens with swipes, selecting an item with taps, etc. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

  • Push notifications

Users have wearables on them all the time. That’s why such devices are a great opportunity to remind users about upcoming events, planned calls, or workout sessions. Push notifications are a must-have for wearable applications. Today, you can even show whole text messages through such notifications or a preview of an upcoming event.

  • Voice commands

Some wearable devices have voice assistants, and you can integrate your app with them. For example, devices on Android Wear have an assistant by Google, and watchOS devices have Siri.

Integration with their API will allow you to add the support of voice commands to your wearable application. It’s a nice-to-have feature, especially for workout apps. They would allow users to set up timers while they are working out and control other features of the application.

There are a lot of other features that an app can have based on the specific needs of your solution.

Choose the Tech Stack

At this stage, you need to understand what platform you are going to develop an app for. If you work with the development vendor, it will help you choose the right technology stack, APIs, SDKs, and other solutions needed.

Below you can see a table showing information about languages and IDE used for some of the wearable platforms.

Platform Language IDE
Android Wear Java or Kotlin Android Studio
watchOS Swift or Objective-C Xcode
Google Glass Java or cloud-based Android Studio
Samsung Gear (Tizen) C, C++, JavaScript Tizen SDK

Development, Launch & Maintenance

After you know what type of app you are going to create, which platform you will target, and what features you will add, you can move on to the development stage.

After the app is ready, you will need to submit it to app marketplaces and start a marketing campaign to promote it among the target audience.

However, the work doesn’t stop after you release an app. Development is an ongoing process and you need to maintain your app, add new features, fix bugs, and ensure its security.

How to Circumvent the Challenges of Wearable App Development

When you create a wearable app, you will need to face a number of challenges. If you work with an experienced team of wearable app developers, they will know how to circumvent any issues that might arise. Here is a short list of possible problems that you will need to deal with:

  • Privacy and data security – whether you are developing a wearable or a mobile app, you will need to deal with data security and privacy. Each wearable platform has its own requirements and if you want to place your app in App Store by Apple, for example, you will need to meet all of them.
  • Battery consumption – your solution should provide both high performance and be battery efficient. If it drains the battery of a wearable device in an hour or two, users won’t use it. You need to remember that wearable solutions have very limited battery resources.
  • Ergonomic UX – designing a wearable application is challenging because of the small screen size. It’s important to create a user interface that will look great on a small screen and that users won’t have any problems interacting with.
  • Customized notifications – small screens don’t allow to show long messages. That’s why you need to design all notifications for wearable platforms specifically. The use of one- or two-word messages is one of the possible approaches.

Wearable App Development: Article Sum-Up

The use of wearable app development is predicted to grow in the future.

With every year, such devices become more advanced and offer a wider range of features.

Wearable applications can become a great addition to your mobile app that will improve the user experience or a standalone solution with unique functionality.

Contemplating the idea of wearable app development?

If you have an app idea and don’t know how to implement it, get in touch with Addevice. We’ll consult you on the best source of action and provide you with a free estimate of your project, cost, and timeline.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I create a wearable app?
Wearable application development consists of a number of steps:

  • Coming up with an app idea
  • Market and competitors research
  • Finding a wearable app development vendor
  • Deciding on the list of features
  • Choosing technology stack
  • Development
  • Launch and maintenance

If you need help with development, get in touch with us.

Where can I find a wearable app development company?
There are numerous places where you can find a development vendor. Such platforms as Clutch, The Manifest, ITFirms, TechReviewer, and others provide information about companies from all other the world.
What are the key types of wearable applications?
Today, there are a few types of wearable solutions that you can implement:

  • standalone apps
  • companion apps
  • faces
  • glances
What are the benefits of outsourcing wearable application development?
Outsourcing app development has a number of benefits:

  • access to the best talents
  • working with experienced developers
  • better time efficiency
  • no need for team management
  • no bureaucracy and associated costs

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