The inside scoop on developing apps for wearable devices

A detailed guide on wearable app development - with costs and features

Wearable devices are making significant strides, reshaping how we interact with and utilize gadgets in our everyday lives. The development of apps tailored for these devices presents a fascinating frontier for innovation and user engagement. From smartwatches and fitness trackers to smart glasses and beyond, wearable apps are designed to enhance functionality, boost interaction, and merge seamlessly with our lifestyle. In this article, we explain what a wearable app is, share ideas and trends in the market, how to develop custom software solutions for wearable devices, and how much it can cost.

The global wearable technology market was worth about USD 28 billion in 2019 . It is expected to grow at a rate of 15.51% each year from 2020 to 2027. Moreover, according to Ericsson ConsumerLab, many users are likely to replace some of their gadgets with wearables:

Wearable app development statistics: Which gadgets are likely to be replaced by wearables?

As the market is experiencing rapid growth and increasing consumer interest, this presents a significant opportunity for custom software development to reach a big audience.

What is a wearable app?

A wearable app is a specialized type of application designed to operate on wearable technology, such as smartwatches, fitness bands, and even smart glasses. Unlike traditional mobile apps designed for smartphones and tablets, wearable apps are optimized for smaller screens and more limited processing capabilities. They are crafted to offer quick access to information or functionality, supporting users in their day-to-day activities without the need to pull a phone out of their pocket.

These apps are built to seamlessly integrate into the wearer's lifestyle, providing immediate updates, notifications, and tracking related to health, fitness, productivity, or communication. For instance, a wearable app might monitor a user's heart rate during a workout, remind them of an appointment, or allow them to control music playback on their phone, all with a simple tap or swipe on their wrist.

Furthermore, wearable apps are designed with the consideration that they will be used in various environments and potentially during physical activity. This means they not only have to be informative and efficient but also robust and responsive.

Types of wearable apps

As wearable technology diversifies, so do the types of wearable apps, each designed to tap into the unique capabilities of the device it lives on. Here's a look at the primary categories based on wearable devices:

Smartwatch apps:

These are perhaps the most recognized forms of wearable apps. Designed for devices like the Apple Watch or various Android Wear models, smartwatch apps can range from fitness tracking and weather updates to message notifications and even mobile payments. They act as an extension of the smartphone, allowing for quick interactions and glanceable information.

Wearable app development for smartwatch devices: iTranslate Converse

iTranslate Converse is a successful smartwatch app development project — the app helps users quickly translate foreign language texts and communicate with people who don't speak the user's native language.

Fitness tracker apps:

Focused more on health and activity monitoring, these apps run on devices dedicated to tracking physical activities. They measure steps taken, calories burned, heart rate, sleep patterns, and more. Fitness tracker apps often aim to motivate users towards a healthier lifestyle and may include social features to compete with friends.

Wearable app development for fitness trackers: VeryFitPro
VeryFitPro is an app that can be paired with a fitness band

Smart glasses apps:

With Google Glass and various augmented reality (AR) glasses emerging, smart glasses apps introduce a whole new dimension to wearable app development. These apps overlay digital information onto the real world, allowing for hands-free navigation, information retrieval, and even specialized tasks like assisting with surgeries or complex repairs.

Wearable app development for smart glasses: Vue Lite
Vue Lite is an app for smart glasses that connect with Alexa

Smart clothing apps:

Integrating technology directly into the fabric, smart clothing apps work with connected garments to offer unique features. This could include changing the color or design of the clothing via an app, tracking body metrics like posture and stress levels, or even heating elements in clothes that are controlled by the wearer.

Wearable app development for smart clothing: Athos app
Athos app for smart clothing with built-in sensors that help to train better

Wearable camera apps:

Specialized apps for wearable devices like the GoPro or Snap's Spectacles enable users to capture photos and videos directly from wearable cameras. These apps often include features for editing, organizing, and sharing content directly from the device, providing a seamless content generation experience.

Wearable app development for wearable cameras: Quick app
Quick is an app for GoPro that helps users edit their photos and videos quickly

Health and medical device apps:

These apps are tied to devices designed for specific health monitoring purposes. They can range from blood pressure monitors and glucose tracking devices to more sophisticated medical wearables used for patient monitoring in clinical settings. The apps associated with these devices focus on tracking, visualizing, and sometimes analyzing health data for both users and healthcare providers.

Wearable app development for smart rings and other healthcare devices: RingConn
RingConn is a smart ring that monitors blood oxygen levels and tracks sleep quality

Companies specializing in wearable app development services offer expertise in creating a variety of apps tailored for wearable devices. They assist businesses in designing and coding apps that not only meet specific functional requirements but also enhance user engagement and integration with the technology.

Ideas and trends for wearable app development

As the wearable market continues to grow, several exciting ideas and trends are shaping the future of wearable app development. These emerging trends not only promise to enhance the user experience but also open up new avenues for innovation and personal technology integration. Here are some of the standout ideas and trends in wearable app development:

1. Personalized health coaching: With advancements in health tracking technology, wearable apps are moving beyond simple activity monitoring to offer personalized health and fitness coaching. These apps can now analyze your health data in real time and provide customized recommendations for diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes, essentially acting as a personal trainer and health advisor on your wrist.

2. Stress and emotional well-being tracking: Recognizing the importance of mental health, developers are creating wearable apps focused on monitoring stress levels and emotional well-being. These apps use sensors to detect changes in heart rate variability, skin temperature, and more to gauge the user's stress levels and offer timely suggestions, such as breathing exercises or mindfulness techniques, to help manage anxiety and improve emotional health.

3. Augmented reality experiences: With smart glasses gaining traction, augmented reality (AR) apps are creating immersive experiences that blend the digital and physical worlds. From interactive gaming and educational tools to virtual try-ons for shopping and real-time navigation overlays, AR app development for wearables is pushing the boundaries of how we interact with our environment and access information.

4. Payment and identity verification: Wearable apps are becoming increasingly integral to secure transactions and identity verification. Incorporating NFC (Near Field Communication) and biometric data, these apps enable users to make payments, unlock devices, and access secure locations with a simple tap or gesture, streamlining the authentication process while enhancing security.

5. Remote control and home automation: As smart home technology becomes more prevalent, wearable apps are turning into convenient remote controls for our living environments. From adjusting thermostats and controlling lights to monitoring security cameras and managing multimedia systems, these apps offer a level of convenience and connectivity that integrates technology seamlessly into our daily routines.

6. Social and environmental awareness: A growing trend in wearable app development is the focus on apps that encourage social connection and environmental awareness. These apps use wearable technology to promote community activities, facilitate social interactions in physical and virtual spaces, and even track an individual's carbon footprint or impact on the environment, fostering a sense of responsibility and connectedness.

7. E-payments integration: The wearable device app integration of electronic payment (e-payment) systems within wearable devices is redefining convenience in transactions. Wearable apps equipped with e-payment functionality allow users to carry out financial transactions without the need for physical wallets or even smartphones. With just a tap of their wearable device, users can quickly and securely pay for services and products. This trend is seeing a surge in popularity due to its blend of security, speed, and simplicity, making it an appealing option for consumers and businesses alike.

8. Beacon technology: Named after their ability to signal information to nearby devices, beacons are small, wireless transmitters that use low-energy Bluetooth technology to send alerts or messages based on geographic location. When integrated with wearable apps, beacon technology can profoundly enhance the user experience by providing contextually relevant information or actions. For instance, a wearable device could receive a notification about a special offer when passing by a favorite store or automatically check in upon entering a hotel. This technology opens up new possibilities for personalized marketing, navigation assistance, and interactive experiences in public spaces, museums, restaurants, and more.

These ideas and trends in wearable app development are not just reshaping the landscape of personal technology; they're also creating more meaningful and integrated experiences that resonate closely with the users' lifestyles and needs.

How to develop such an app

Developing an app for wearable devices can seem daunting at first, but breaking down the process into manageable steps makes it much easier. Let's dive into how you can turn your idea into a reality, with a focus on simplicity and effectiveness.

1. Start with a solid idea

Every great wearable app starts with a unique idea. Think about what problems you want to solve or what enhancements you can bring to the wearable experience. Your idea should focus on the strengths and limitations of wearable tech, aiming to provide value in a compact form.

Look at existing wearable apps and identify any gaps or points of frustration for users. Are there features people are yearning for? Or perhaps there's a whole niche that no app adequately serves? By investigating these aspects, you'll discover potential opportunities for your app development.

Knowing your target audience is key. Analyze who they are — consider age, lifestyle, and why they use wearable devices. Understand their challenges and how your app development can make their everyday lives easier or more fulfilling. Imagine developing a wearable app designed specifically for elderly users to help them maintain their independence and ensure their safety. This app, equipped with a simple interface suitable for seniors, could include features such as medication reminders, a fall detection system that alerts emergency contacts, and a daily check-in function that family members can monitor.

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2. Choose the right platform for your wearable app development

Once you have your idea, decide on the key features your app will offer and the platforms it will support. Wearable devices vary widely, from smartwatches to fitness trackers, each with its own set of capabilities. Each device type solves different user needs and uses different programming technologies.

Smartwatches

Smartwatches combine timekeeping with features like message notifications and health tracking. The main platforms for smartwatch app development are Apple's watchOS and Google's Wear OS. Developers typically use Swift or Objective-C for apps on watchOS, and Java or Kotlin for apps on Wear OS.

Fitness trackers

These devices focus on health and activity tracking. There are two main platforms for fitness trackers — Fitbit and Garmin. For Fitbit devices, apps are mostly written using JavaScript, which is good for web-based wearable devices app development. Garmin fitness trackers use a special language called Monkey C for their app development.

Smart glasses

Smart glasses are less common and often used for augmented reality. Apps for devices like Google Glass are developed using the Android SDK, which is similar to developing for Android phones.

How React Native can simplify wearable app development across platforms

React Native is a tool that makes app development for both iOS and Android devices faster because developers can use one codebase for both. This is particularly useful when developing apps for different types of wearable devices, like smartwatches and fitness trackers. Entrepreneurs can also create an app for iPhones and Androids with React Native app development and reuse the app's code to create a wearable app. Remember that many wearables need to be connected to a smartphone. They use the smartphone companion app to access the internet and have better performance. That's why many companies combine mobile app development with wearable device app development.

3. Consider the app development challenges

Wearable app development introduces unique challenges that entrepreneurs must tackle to ensure their product is not only functional but also competitive and secure. Here are some of the primary hurdles you might face:

Battery life constraints

Wearable devices often have significantly smaller batteries compared to smartphones or tablets. This means that any app developed for them needs to be exceptionally efficient in its power consumption. Apps that drain the battery quickly can become inconvenient for users, reducing their practicality and appeal.

Dependency on other devices

Many wearable devices are tethered to smartphones, relying on them for internet connectivity and advanced computing tasks. This dependency can limit the device's usefulness when it's not connected to a smartphone, and handling this in wearable device app development can be tricky. Ensuring your app can operate effectively both independently and when connected is essential.

Security concerns

With wearables often collecting personal and sensitive data like health metrics, security becomes a paramount concern. Developers need to implement robust encryption and data protection measures to prevent unauthorized access and reassure users that their data is safe. Key compliances can include GDPR for handling EU citizens' data, HIPAA for health-related data, and PCI DSS for handling payments.

Limited functionality and user interface

Wearable devices typically have smaller screens and less processing power than other smart devices, which restricts the complexity of the tasks they can perform and the user interface they can display. Apps need to be designed to deliver their functionality within these constraints, focusing on simplicity and ease of use.

Understanding and addressing these wearable app development challenges is crucial for the success of any wearable app. Effective management of these issues not only enhances the user experience but also ensures the longevity and relevance of your app development in a rapidly evolving market.

4. Choose the features

Selecting the right features for your wearable app is crucial for its success. Focus on the essential functions that address the main purposes of your app and match the capabilities of the wearable device.

Remember, wearable devices usually have smaller screens and less power compared to smartphones, so aim for simplicity. Features should allow users to complete tasks quickly and easily, often with just a few taps or swipes.

Think about how your app will work with other devices. For instance, if the wearable pairs with a smartphone, decide which features should be handled by the wearable for convenience and which are better suited for the phone. Also, don't overlook the importance of security, especially if your app handles personal or sensitive data. Ensure these features are strong but user-friendly.

In sum, when choosing features for your wearable app, consider the user's needs, the context of use, and the device's specific traits. This focus will help make your app both useful and appealing to users. You can always address a wearable app development company and ask them to help you with the task.

5. Design a user interface

When you create a user interface for a wearable app, you need to prioritize simplicity and accessibility. Wearable devices like smartwatches have very small screens, so it's crucial to make every detail clear and visible. Start by focusing on the essentials. Only include the necessary information that users need to see immediately. A clean and straightforward design helps avoid a crowded and confusing display, which is important on such small screens.

Design concept for wearable app development - a smart watch fitness app

Choose your colors with care to enhance visibility. High-contrast colors work well because they help users easily distinguish information without straining their eyes. However, you should avoid colors that are too bright as they can be harsh, especially in low-light conditions. The text should be easy to read, so opt for large, bold fonts and keep text usage to a minimum. When you must use text, make sure it is brief and clear.

Since interacting with a wearable device is different from using a smartphone, design with touch in mind. Make sure that the touch targets are big enough to tap easily without causing accidental presses. Provide enough space around icons and buttons to make the interface user-friendly.

6. Develop your first version

Starting your wearable app project with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a smart move. An MVP focuses on core features that meet your users' main needs, allowing you to test your app development idea quickly and get feedback. You need to pinpoint the essential features that solve your app's primary problem. Keep these features simple to ease app development and enhance user experience.

Remember, launching your app is just the beginning. Collect user feedback, analyze usage patterns, and continue to refine and update your app to meet your users' evolving needs. Developing a wearable app is a dynamic process, but by following these steps, you're well on your way to creating an engaging and valuable addition to the wearable ecosystem.

How much would it cost to develop a wearable app?

The wearable app development time and cost can vary depending on several factors including feature complexity, design specifications, app development platforms, and the developer's rates. Developing an MVP for a wearable app with Ronas IT typically costs between $30,000 and $50,000. This estimate includes all the essentials to bring a functional, user-focused MVP to life. The timeline for developing this MVP generally ranges from 1 to 3 months, depending on the project's scope and complexity.

Standard MVP developmentUrgent MVP development
3 months1 month
$30,000+$50,000

As a mobile app development company, we suggest creating a wearable app using React Native, due to its cross-platform capabilities, high-performance levels, and cost-effectiveness. It will allow you to create the app for multiple devices, including mobile phones, with fewer expenses and a shorter timeline.

To conclude

Creating apps for wearable devices is a journey of innovation, user-centric design, and technical precision. This burgeoning segment of the tech industry offers an enriching opportunity for entrepreneurs to build impactful, convenient, and secure applications tailored to the needs of the modern user. Whether it's for fitness tracking, health monitoring, augmented reality, or remote controls, wearable apps are becoming a pivotal component of how we interact with technology in our day-to-day lives. To excel in this exciting field, entrepreneurs must focus on understanding the unique challenges posed by the small yet powerful nature of wearable devices, leveraging the right tools and platforms, and continually adapting to user feedback and technological advancements. The road to successful wearable app development is paved with innovation, adaptability, and a deep understanding of both technological possibilities and user expectations.

If you're interested in custom wearable app development, you can contact us anytime to discuss your project and get the first estimation of app development time and cost. Just fill in the form below and our manager will get back to you in 24 hours

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