How to start developing apps for wearables

By | October 13, 2014

The wearable technology market is really beginning to take off. According to Nielsen about one in six people already use wearables like fitness trackers and smartwatches in their daily lives. Smart glasses, jewelry, and other wearable categories are on the way.

Apps for wearables

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The enterprise will play a big part in wearables adoption as the practical benefits of hands-free solutions, like smart glasses, for a whole range of workers are clear. They can improve safety, increase efficiency, and boost job satisfaction.

Wearables need apps

A lack of apps and a fragmented landscape for developers is an early barrier to wearables success. The opportunity for developers is huge. Strategy Analytics surveyed over 1,700 developers a year ago and found that 27 percent were planning to develop apps for wearable devices in the coming year.

Since then we’ve seen a flurry of big names enter the market, including Apple and Google. The quandary for developers isn’t whether to target this new sector, it’s about which platforms are worth developing for. So, what are the choices?

Android Wear – Google’s wearable platform is up and running on a number of devices such as the Moto 360, the LG G Watch, and the Samsung Gear Live. You can get started developing apps for it today. You’ll find lots of resources to get you started at the Android developer website. If you’re interested in developing for Google Glass then check out the developer resource for Glassware.

WatchKit – Apple hasn’t yet released its smartwatch range and access to the development kit for apps is very limited. It should be made more widely available in Q1 of 2015 when the Apple Watch range hits the market.

Pebble – One of the earliest smartwatch ranges on the scene has a vibrant app store with more than 4,000 apps in it. You can find the SDK and lots of guides at the Pebble developer website.

Samsung Gear – Another early mover in the smartwatch space was Samsung and it has the largest market share right now. The majority of its wearable devices run Tizen and you can start developing for them at the Samsung developer website.

Sony Wearables – Sony has also released a number of smarwatches and it is set to release its SmartEyeglass transparent lens eyewear in the not too distant future. If you’re interested in developing for either device, then head to the Sony developer website.

Salesforce Wear – The focus here is on developing business apps. You’ll find a collection of open-source starter apps for a range of wearables, including Google Glass, Android Wear, Samsung Gear 2, Myo armband, Pebble, and more in the Salesforce Wear Developer Pack.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it does highlight most of the big platforms right now. It’s fairly easy to get started and for developers with mobile app experience it shouldn’t be a major leap.

Deciding on which platforms to target is a trickier proposition.

With a fervent fan base and a hugely popular App Store, Apple’s WatchKit is sure to present a lucrative opportunity, but it’s not yet available for most developers. Android Wear has plenty of support to get you started and a rapidly growing group of different OEMs are producing and promoting devices running it. Samsung’s Tizen platform has a bigger market share for wearables right now, but that could change quickly.

One thing’s for sure, there’s a real opportunity to create a killer wearables app that could capture the public imagination. Wearables won’t take off without great apps to run on them.

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About Simon Hill

Simon is an experienced freelance technology journalist covering mobile technology, software, and videogames for a wide variety of clients in print and online. He regularly contributes to Digital Trends, Tech Radar, and Android Authority, and he ghostwrites for CEOs in the technology space. After completing a Masters in Scottish History at Edinburgh University, he began his career as a games tester, progressing to lead tester, game designer, and finally producer, before leaving the industry to write full time. He is passionate about the potential for good software and hardware to improve our lives, and strongly believes that thorough testing is a vital prerequisite for greatness.