Apple Watch App development Tips and Best Practice

With Apple Watch release, mobile developers now have more devices to create for. Obviously, new product is always a bit scary, because it’s an absolute must to understand basics of the development for it.

In general development is pretty much the same as generally for iOS, but in some ways developing for Apple Watch is absolutely different, than for iPhone, iPad or iPod. The key is in simplicity, and here come some limitations, of course.

So, if you plan to develop an app for your company for Apple Watch also, let’s check what are the useful tips and best practices are!

Apple watch & iPhone

First and main thing about Apple Watch app development – user must have iPhone 5 or later and it should run on iOS 8.2 or later. It is necessary because Apple Watch requires it for running 3rd party apps. No exceptions.

A WatchKit app uses the iPhone’s CPU and is a sandboxed extension of an existing iOS app. On the watch, a WatchKit app contains only resources (storyboards, UI objects, images, text, etc.). Connection is established via Bluetooth Low Energy.

Once pairing is completed, you can download apps for the watch using the iPhone to navigate the App Store. The iPhone will automatically detect that it was paired with an Apple Watch and ask the user to download the watch app.

This limitation means that any standalone scenarios for the watch are off the table as of now.
apple watch

WatchKit Architecture

The difference between Apple Watch apps and any other iOS apps is quite big. In the Watch app there are two parts – the WatchKit App and the WatchKit extension.

So you load on the Watch itself the app, which is just the static resources and storyboard, but no code — nothing that’s compiling at runtime. Second part lives on the paired iPhone.

The Watch app acts as the public face of your app and works in tandem with your WatchKit extension.

That’s why iPhone is an absolute must for running Apple Watch apps.
apple watch

Battery, please

If you read WatchKit documentation, you know, that it shows very definite emphasis on the power saving. You can cache images to let the battery live longer, for example.

Also, when you manipulate table rows you don’t need to reload the entire table. Updating, adding or removing the components that had been changed will be enough.

Only use what you need; even though the workload is largely driven by the iPhone via the Watch extension code, the communication between the two will burn CPU cycles on both ends.

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Limited interaction

Small size – great limitations. On the Apple Watch you can have only three types of interaction with user interface for developers:

  • Glances
  • Actionable Notifications
  • WatchKit Apps

Glances are widgets, that display info like news, calendar, or weather. Unlike tab Today in iPhones, they are non-interactive and defined by Apple templates.

Unlike Glances, Actionable Notifications allow you to view it, respond or make appropriate actions, following action buttons. There are two types of notifications – Long Look and Short Look.

And, finally, WatchKit Apps allows developers to create a user interface that runs on Apple Watch for applications running on the iPhone.
apple watch

Apple Watch and UI/UX

Of course, with the small display size comes different UI. You should consider it when creating an app. Like, even icons are round and not square. Yes, it’s better for such small screen and you can tap directly at them, but you need to keep it in mind when designing.

The basic UI objects the Watch can manage include tables, images, separators, buttons, switches, sliders, static text, date and time, count down/up timers, menus, and maps.

You should also consider using icons instead of text whenever it is possible, because you need to make sure your content is accessible from the first glance.

If some buttons or actions are not supposed to be used regularly, hide them. Use general tips of usability, but adapt it to the small screen. Don’t make your app overstuffed and remember, an Apple Watch app is not an app for iPhone or iPad.
apple watch

to watch or not to watch

There is one main thing to consider before building apps for the Apple Watch. Not every iOS app needs a prolongation like this. If you want to create an app for the new device only because you think it’s cool – think once again.

There’s no reason to create useless app, no matter for what device. But app development for Apple Watch should have solid ground. You want to be as others? Wrong idea. Want to keep customer in touch with news, updates and events? Here you go.

Make sure your Apple Watch app is useful and relieves client’s pain, and that’s it, success. But be careful – as with iPhone apps, lots of Apple Watch apps are not used more than once.


So these are some of the tips for developing Apple Watch apps. Of course, they are general, but provide better understanding of the development work with this device.

You may ask how much does it cost to develop app for Apple Watch? There’s no exact answer. Some easy app using a template you can create in an hour, some will be developed for months.

Obviously, it all depend on your idea, UI/UX and general complexity. If you have any questions regarding developing Apple Watch apps or just want to have some estimation on your project – write in the comments bellow or contact us here, we will gladly help you!