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Why Apple Watch won't hit its stride until Q4 2015

Our Wearable Mavens discuss the first three weeks
Why Apple Watch won't hit its stride until Q4 2015
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We've experimented with a Wearable Mavens group in the past, but like the entire sector, it's take the launch of the Apple Watch to really kick things off.

So, in that context, this is the first real Wearable Mavens article.

Our group of experts will be regularly asked their opinion on developments in the sector.

If you'd like to get an invite to the group, please email jon -at- [dot] uk

As for our first question: well, we decided to ask three:

What's your reaction to the Apple Watch launch?

Do you think the complex pre-ordering system and restrictive App Store discovery have blunted its impact in a significant way?

What are your hopes for the coming months?

Adrian Hon

Adrian Hon

CEO at Six to Start

Reaction to the launch: It's been fine. I think there were a lot of developers and pundits losing their shit about getting their apps ready for launch, despite the fact that demand from users was unclear, and despite not having had much time to test on production hardware.

Pre-order and discovery: There aren't a lot of Watches out there, sure. I don't think it was a complex system as much as the fact that Watches are supply-constrained. That will fix itself in a few months. Restrictive discovery? I don't think so. Seems fine to me.

Hopes: More people buy Watches. Better WatchKit SDK with more capabilities. Developers not losing their shit by making entirely pointless apps that are totally unsuited for short interactions on a tiny screen.

OK, that last one is unrealistic.

William D. Volk

William D. Volk

Chief Futurist at Forward Reality

The Apple Watch, in terms of customer demand and sales, is a big success. The problem is the restrictive app discovery in the Apple Watch Companion App.

The Apple Watch Companion App, as an example, only shows 21 game titles when you go to the game category.

Discovery remains an issue
Discovery remains an issue

There’s no sub categories, only All Games. One can search for an app by name, but users are unlikely to do that. WatchAware and other sites show hundreds of game titles.

“Our contacts at Apple have said this is being worked on, but there’s no date as of yet.”
William D. Volk

The same is true for other categories of apps. Health and Fitness only shows 14 apps. This means that the vast majority of the 2,000+ Apple Watch developers are cut out of the market.

The functionality hooks are there. One taps on the ‘Featured’ icon, and at the top of the screen there is a ‘Categories’ text button. 11 Categories are displayed. Selecting Games takes you to a screen with one option … All Games. Selecting that takes you to the 21 game titles as mentioned. The Categories only show the few featured apps.

There’s little chance users will discover new apps this way and the lack of sub-categories looks like a program error to the user, as if the Companion App was rushed to market.

Our contacts at Apple have said this is being worked on, but there’s no date as of yet.

While many Apple Watch games are scaled down versions of iPhone apps, some developers, such as ourselves, crafted unique graphical and UI elements for the watch ... drawing on our feature phone experience in the 2000 decade.

We are truly disappointed in this state of affairs as are others. Developers are afraid to speak up about this, but it’s a real concern for all.

Christopher Kassulke

Christopher Kassulke

CEO at HandyGames

What's your reaction to the Apple Watch launch?: The units Apple shipped are amazing but it was expected that an Apple product will be sold that hot!

Apple is outstanding in marketing and the press coverage compared to the other smartwatch manufacturers. So I believe we will see more units shipped till end of the year from Apple.

Do you think the complex pre-ordering system and restrictive App Store discovery have blunted its impact in a significant way?: The App Store discovery of smartwatch games are for sure not perfect yet. Being fair – Apple is new to the smartwatch content so also they have to learn and getter experience. The shelf is way too small for the provided products.

Mainly I am disappointed by the titles offered on the platform as they remind me on WAP or i-mode games I saw around 2002 in the market. Not many really use the Apple Watch features which normally I as a consumer would expect.

What are your hopes for the coming months?: As a developer I hope Apple let us develop better quality games on the Apple Watch soon. I don’t want to see WAP Games. I want to see outstanding new concepts and I want to develop games which fit to the platform with all the great new possibilities.

Currently I can only provide those new innovative titles on Android Wear and that’s a shame!

Aki Jarvilehto

Aki Jarvilehto

CEO at Metacore

From our point of view, Apple Watch launch really marks the beginning of smartwatch gaming. I realise we've had Android Wear devices out there, but the consumer experience with Apple Watch is simply unrivalled.

As developers we can now deliver exciting and meaningful gameplay experiences on the platform. Smartwatch gaming isn't something which will happen in the future anymore. The game has now officially started!

And it couldn't be more exciting! Getting a global hero slot feature for Runeblade at launch was kinda of amazing.


As always when you're live and getting feedback from gamers a lot of your priorities change. We've done four content updates so far and are working on our first major update for end of this month.

The update is called "The Desolation" and it will literally set the world of Runeblade to fire!

In the coming months we expect things to heat up. Apple will continue to work on meeting the demand and Android Wear certainly looks a lot more interesting platform with breathtaking statements like Moto 360 price cut down to $165.

So it should be an interesting year and I can't wait for Q4...

Oscar Clark

Oscar Clark

Chief Strategy Officer at Fundamentally Games

Yes, Apple have done an amazing job getting an audience - but that was never in doubt.

Their trick to achieving it, however, should be applauded. Focus on the position that watches occupy as the major piece of man-jewelry.

“Apple are behind the curve in terms of performance and function, but ahead of the curve in terms of gloss and packaging.”
Oscar Clark

Having the luxury versions of the device was a genius way to avoid us looking at the functional and hardware limitations of this their initial foray into the market.

As usual Apple are behind the curve in terms of performance and function, but ahead of the curve in terms of gloss and packaging.

Although I don't personally like the look of the Apple Watch. It looks like the old iPod Nano with a strap to me.

Until Apple launched their watch there was no significant market for smartwatch content. However, with the restrictions Apple have placed on what an app can do directly on the device I fear that we are still too early.

I'd like that not to be true, but I stick by my previous comments that it won't be till the second generation device next year and the associated holiday season take up that the market will really take off.

That doesn't mean I'm not excited though. Now is the very time to experiment and learn how people use the devices. The audiences now will be more accepting and the competition will both be less and also learning.

Establishing what content works, learning how people use the devices now, means you will be ready when the mass market audience converts to smartwatches.

There are plenty of unknowns remaining when it comes to smartwatches
There are plenty of unknowns remaining when it comes to smartwatches

Regarding the store front, the odd way Apple are selling content is quite telling but Google are having similar issues.

Discovering smartwatch content on Goggle Play is also painful and the Watch App Store doesn't show even half of what's available. Both sides have a lot to learn about watch experience.

I am sure there will be updates but I'm looking forward to the next Android Watch update. I'm sure that will shake things up!

Tiina Zilliacus

Tiina Zilliacus

CEO at Gajatri Studios

We just released our gamified breath exercise app for Apple Watch, Mindful Watch, a bit over two weeks ago.

For me personally it's the first time during 17 years in mobile when I've released something without testing it with real hardware.

Mindful Watch - developed in WatchKit, not on a Watch
Mindful Watch - developed in WatchKit, not on a Watch

Now that we've been able to gather and see some analytics in terms of usage and markets etc, it'll be much easier to figure out meaningful next steps and updates for this particular product.

I feel hardware volume will be building up by and during Q4 so by that time we'll have another watch app coming.

We are very much looking forward to opening up of Apple Watch heart rate data interface this year, this is really the reason why I am big believer in watch platform in addition to luxury factor: for developers to be able to use the data it gathers in service and user experience creation.

John Passfield

John Passfield

Owner at Red Sprite Studios

What's your reaction to the Apple Watch launch?: The Apple Watch launch signalled the beginning of wearable games. From a developer's perspective Apple did a great job in letting us be a part of making apps for the Watch launch.

I'm glad that the initial SDK was fairly simple - I think that helped reign in scope and helped ease us into ecosystem. Now we're ready for the next SDK!

Do you think the complex pre-ordering system and restrictive App Store discovery have blunted its impact in a significant way?: The initial strategy of selling Apple Watches online made sense given the huge number of Watch permutations required to make it a personal device. Now Apple knows which combinations are popular and this should help them manage retail stock going forward.

Smart Attack: Numbers - developed by Red Sprite Studios
Smart Attack: Numbers - developed by Red Sprite Studios

For a launch product the Watch App Store was okay, but I can see Apple quickly improving the experience to match that of the main store.

What are your hopes for the coming months?: Over the next few months (now that I have my Apple Watch) I hope to get a better sense of what sort of experiences make a great Watch game. Up until now us developers have been making games based on what we think the Watch experience would be like.

Now we can start to learn the reality of living with one and adjust our designs accordingly.

Like Tina, I think that Q4 will be sweet spot for a good user base of players.

Paul Virapen

Paul Virapen

CEO at WearGa

The launch of Apple Watch has been a great success, but I don’t think many people doubted that. With pre-order estimates surpassing 2.3 million units, analyst predictions of 22 million devices in 2015 now look realistic.

App Store discovery is always a challenge for developers, and we consider ourselves extremely privileged to have our first Apple Watch game Cupcake Dungeon featured as a launch title in the store.

<em>Cupcake Dungeon</em> running on Paul's wrist
Cupcake Dungeon running on Paul's wrist

However bear in mind that games weren’t really mentioned at either of Apple’s Watch-focused events, so the fact that there is a games section in the store at all is great for developers like us working on watch-first experiences.

Over the coming months we’re excited by the rapid growth of smartwatch platforms, and looking forward to the next release the WatchKit SDK and native Watch apps later in 2015.

Will Luton

Will Luton

Founder/CPO Village Studio Games

My first reaction to the Apple Watch was "I hate this". There's a lot of cognitive load to overcome the UX paradigms set by iOS.

For example, the expectation that tapping the crown should act like the home button or that the friends button should act like a lock. However that pain passes within an hour or two as you map the usage and you start to get it.

“I have no doubts that the device will sell and that games will be a large part of the app ecosystem.”
Will Luton

There's some UX and OS work to be done by Apple with the device, but that hardware just feels great. Overall, I'm happy with the device and would miss it if I lost it.

It's a leap on from Android Wear (bad, but featureful) and Pebble (great, but simple). I think we can consider Apple Watch generation two of smartwatch - very much like early iPhone.

As for games, it seems like the most successful genre fits at launch are interactive fiction (Spy_Watch and Lifeline) and incrementals (Runeblade and Cupcake Dungeon). Maybe puzzles, but I'm less sure.

Which are great first tests for the platforms and in some cases fun, but I don't believe are going to be the genres that dominate the platform long term.

I think the battle for smartwatch gaming is about to get real now the hardware is out and native SDK is on its way.

Apple are supply constrained and devices seems to be trickling out, but as Paul says those analyst predictions of 20m+ devices seems plausible. This means the market is going to be worth specifically addressing by the end of this year.

So I have no doubts that the device will sell and that games will be a large part of the app ecosystem.

My hopes for the coming months are that there are some cool OS updates and we start to see some really ambitious titles start to pop up - specifically from those of you on the list!

Anyway, it's time for me to stand up...