BY  / APR 14, 2015 Instagram's simple take on its Apple Watch app is a software development model to follow. (Instagram)

The Apple Watch is just days away from hitting a handful of select wrists, and some developers are understandably gung-ho about the app-making opportunities. The rest of us—including in the association space—should probably take a wait-and-see strategy, but even if you’re not making smartwatch apps, the early apps provide important lessons.

There’s a pretty good chance your association isn’t working on an Apple Watch app right now.

Given the limited use cases, the lack of evidence that it’s going to be a blockbuster hit on the scale of the iPhone or Android, and the utter newness of the technology, developing for the platform is probably best suited for tech giants and hobbyists. Let Evernote figure out the best way to take wrist-based technology to the next level.There’s still plenty to learn from those out in front, willing to take the arrows of innovation and share their war stories.

On the other hand, there’s still plenty to learn from those out in front, willing to take the arrows of innovation and share their war stories. There are enough people trying right now—reportedly, Apple received 1,000 watch app submissions from developers in just a few days—to know that developers see an audience.

But these apps have largely been designed in a void, with no access to the device that would eventually be running the software, nor with knowledge of what the audience wants. We don’t know if people will like these apps, hate them, or—worst of all—simply not care.

(The latter case was a death knell for Google Glass, which saw developer interest quickly fadewhen it was clear the functionality and uptake were both limited.)


One company that actually did get a chance to develop on the device itself is the social network Instagram. And the lessons that the company took from the process, which developers recently shared with Wired, are pretty translatable to anyone with an inkling of interest in building for a new platform:

  1. Simple is better. Rather than trying to shove the entire Instagram experience into a screen a quarter of the size of the average iPhone 5, Instagram’s developers decided to cut out as much as they could, limiting the functionality to allowing users to see photos from users they follow and send simple responses. As developer Ian Silber put it: “What if you could know right when someone posts—and not just know that they’ve posted, but be able to see it?”
  2. Know your limitations. Apple’s decision to tie its watch so closely to the iPhone means that the Instagram app can’t do very much by design, something that can be frustrating but also helps to set effective parameters. “Any code that you run—there is a slight delay before it reaches the screen,” fellow developer Arnaud Coomans told Wired. “You have to take that into account.”
  3. Your app will evolve. While an app that shows only a handful of notifications might seem like a drag for some who expect their devices to do everything except slice bread, remember that this is just a starting point—and user interactions will help allow for extended parameters down the road, along with brand new apps. “It’s similar to when the iPhone first came out. Now, there are companies, like Instagram, that exist just because of the phone. That might be the case with the watch too,” Silber added. “We’ll see what happens.”


Instagram’s simple approach isn’t the only one. A handful of app-makers are trying some more ambitious things—such as the developers of the role-playing game Runeblade, who have decided that “Twitter-sized entertainment” could be the next big thing:

(Hey, it worked for Tamagotchi!)

And there are plenty who see some big-picture potential—well, as long as Apple eventually extends the programming functionality. Some developers are chomping at the bit to have access to real-time body data, which marketers see as potentially making advertising more targeted than ever.

“The device will know a lot about you and, by tapping into your wireless body network, can serve ads that are more engaging,” Appetizer Mobile’s Jordan Edelson told CNBC last week.

But Apple’s own guidelines for watch developers—which, probably for the best, would rule out some of the more out-there ideas—suggest that simplicity is pretty much the way to go.

“A WatchKit app complements its containing iOS app; it does not replace it,” the human interface guidelines state. “If you measure interactions with your iOS app in minutes, you can expect interactions with your WatchKit app to be measured in seconds. So keep interactions brief and interfaces simple.”


Again, your organization probably isn’t focused on this unless your members are app makers. (The Application Developers Alliance clearly is—it released a white paper a couple of months ago discussing the potential for wearables that included Apple Watch, along with many similar technologies.)

But you can still learn something from the early experiments in watch apps. As scales change and user needs evolve, you have to think hard about what you decide to develop and implement. Associations are complex, and they want to do a lot  for their members with available technology.

Sometimes, it’s the stuff you leave out—the edges you sand off the stone—that can make the difference for the people you’re trying to reach. Once you sand down that stone, you might have a perfect building block on your hands.

Ironically, a prior Apple launch is the perfect example of this point in action.

In January 2007, Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone to the world in a dramatic display that blew a lot of minds. But what’s often forgotten is that Jobs initially discouraged the creation of native third-party apps for the device, out of concern that it would ruin the experience that his company had worked hard to create.

Eventually, based on user feedback, Jobs changed his mind, and Apple opened up the App Store—now perhaps the most important part of its business.

So start simple, then build from there. You might be surprised at what you create.

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Two of the top trending technology-related topics are mobile advertising and wearable technology. As if each of these subjects didn’t already have enough questions surrounding them individually—with wearable device loitering just outside the profitability sweet spot, and mobile advertisers pouring more time, effort and money into making campaigns more effective with minimal results at best—the two subjects are now melding into a completely new field of focus: mobile advertising through wearable technology.

So how exactly will wearable technology mesh—or clash—with mobile advertising?

While some advertisers view the proliferation of the wearable technology as a complication to an already burdened effort, founder and CEO of Appetizer Mobile, Jordan Edelson, sees it as an opportunity. He also believes that biotech data gathered via sensors in wearable devices is the bridge, and that it can lead to effective, well-targeted advertising for consumers.  

“Advertisers need to get a bit more creative as far as how they reach their end user and hopefully make a more highly targeted connection with them and therefore have a more effective outcome,” Edelson told TMC in an interview. “What’s happening and what is going to be happening over the next couple of years is the development of your bio-analytical profile that marketers and advertisers will have access to under hopefully more controlled conditions.”

According to Edelson, information regarding breathing patterns, pulse, body temperature and even voice patterns can be gathered using wearable devices that range from smartwatches, wristbands such as Fitbit, and even clothing that has smart sensors embedded in the fabric such as hats and shirts. Wearables that utilize this tech have already proven to be exceptionally useful for health monitoring and maintenance by collecting data that can be analyzed through myriad mobile applications. In the same way that this system helps people live healthier, it will help advertisers give consumers the gift of relevant marketing.  

Edelson provided the example of a health food restaurant trying to target prospective customers. A Fitbit or an Apple Watch might be able to determine glucose levels, and based on a user’s heart rate, may also know that he or she has just been exercising. Edelson explained, “Therefore you might be interested in healthy food, and you might be hungry after the workout, so then they target you and push that ad or notification to the watch or to your phone, and this might have a better overall chance of converting.”

The idea sounds plausible enough, and it yields the potential to help people with certain health goals. But can it carry over to areas unrelated to health? How about, say, clothes shopping? According to Edelson, it can, and it may be able to do it better than real-time mobile advertising systems already in place.

“The best example is the iBeacon program, which some stores are starting to utilize . .  . you go into Macys and you get a picture notification if you’re in a certain area of the store with an ad, but again the accuracy of that and how effective it is, is decent.” Edelson said. “But imagine once there is a sensor embedded that can actually read your heart rate. Say if you’re a female looking at a pair of Louis Vuittons, your heart rate might elevate, and based off of that data advertisers will know there is some sort of interest, or that you like what you’re looking at, and therefore push an ad or discount in real time.”

Essentially, this means that data from wearable devices can help companies achieve targeted marketing for products that prospective consumers want, in addition to what they need. And in theory, the accuracy of this type of information will only be enhanced through biological data. For example, advertisers might be able to avoid sending a user with heart problems who exercises on a regular basis ads from Chik-fil-A. But another user who exercises and has a strong heart rate and a steady pulse might still receive an ad for a local steakhouse. Paired with other data, such as that gathered through social media and search results, biosensors on wearable devices can differentiate between a person in his or her mid-twenties who is trying to bulk up, and a middle-aged person with a heart-attack risk who must eat healthier. In addition to being more accurate, this type of advertising could be inherently more responsible.

The caveat for many users will undoubtedly be potential invasiveness. Advertisers already know a lot about us, including some information about our biometrics, based on our online meanderings, but having this data gathered directly from sensors worn on our bodies is something most people only feel comfortable doing in a medical setting or with their wearable devices in the privacy of their personal space. Consumers must be able to control the degree to which their biological data is shared, and advertisers will need to be careful with how they handle and use the sensitive information they acquire. Edelson cited retina scanning in the film, Minority Report, as an example of what probably shouldn’t happen. The success of biometric information as a means to shrink advertisers’ crosshairs will depend heavily on responsible application of user data.   

“Now is when a lot of companies are starting to lay the groundwork to build some of these different systems, but I hope people use some sort of best practices as they approach it so they don’t scare consumers away, because I think it’s a huge opportunity to change the entire landscape,” Edelson said.

Companies that pull it off have a lot to gain, or as Edelson put it, “there’s a big opportunity here, and I think whoever figures it out is going to make a boatload of money in this space. I think it’s only a matter of time.” 

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In a recent article on TechCrunch, app development is making headlines for a different reason than what we may normally consider; rather than the fruits of app development garnering media attention, the pricing structure has come under close scrutiny as tech companies around the world begin competing more vociferously within the app marketplace. It’s not as if the global marketplace had yet to enter the app development foray; however, as new grads and amateur developers hone in their skillset and begin to stake their place within the market in nations like India and Indonesia, the price disparity for app development is reaching staggering extremes from one nation to the next. We wanted to take some time to unpack some of the salient mentions from this piece, and uncover what app development costs typically address.

Price Disparity Hits New Extremes


Among the biggest takeaways from the piece is the difference in price for an app developed in America or the Western world as opposed to developing nations like Indonesia or the Indian Subcontinent.

While American app companies are often priced at a premium, this luxury is fast waning based on the quality of work now provided in other outlets around the world. As the quality of work continues to improve around the global marketplace, we’re continuing to see a huge gulf in price for a nearly identical product from developers all around the world. While Americans have enjoyed a premium that is buoyed, according to TechCrunch, by reasons including “time zone, language, product culture, and exposure,” it seems as if the global dominance may soon come to a close.

The ability level and supply of high quality app developers and programmers around the world continues to increase, with even developing marketplaces increasing their means in terms of engineering, design, UX, and more. As smartphones extend their reach and become more commonplace, even in places like India and Indonesia, app development experts soon follow.

SDKs Level the Playing Field

We talk about SDKs often; as new operating systems are unveiled and new technology eschewed in the door with each new iteration of a smartphone, software development kits are often being paraded in front of the media as tech companies realize the value of curating content for their new device or OS.

SDKs are designed to take some of the guesswork out of the app development process; however, their introduction and availability has also helped lower the point of entry required for developers looking to break into developing mobile applications. These kits are increasing in popularity, with many app developers intimating they expect a “25-50% increase in the use of SDKs” in 2015.

Diversifying in the App Industry

With an industry that is being flooded with new developers and experts that are growing into meeting the demands of clients at a lower point of entry thanks to an influx of SDKs, app developers, especially in the United States, will need to ensure that their application development price point is being matched by something of equal value. As app vendors around the world begin to be able to do some of the heavy lifting required to make a well-programmed app, businesses will look for app developers who can offer them something extra.

While Americans currently benefit from product culture and exposure, they may want to look at leveraging these things into part of a wholly integrated, holistic product meant to measure your app’s success. From engagement and UX experience to the more nuanced fields of business consulting and monetization, app developers will need to leverage new areas of expertise to stay ahead in the field.

For more information on how to get the most out of your app, drop us a line

The official Apple Watch launch will attract lines around the block at retail outlets, waitlists online and endless product reviews.

But for the hardcore developers and gadget geeks, the first version—set for pre-order on April 10 and public availability two weeks later—is just a taste of what the future holds. 

Why? Because the sensor data that the watch is uniquely positioned to capture won't yet be available to third parties.

For a combination of privacy reasons, performance concerns and desire to retain control over the device, Apple isn't yet letting outsiders access those sensors via WatchKit, the developer software tools for the Apple Watch. So all that valuable information about heart rate, calories burned, blood pressure and skin temperature will remain locked up, for now.

"Once Apple opens that gateway and gives developers access to it, they can do wild and crazy things never done before," said Jordan Edelson, chief executive officer of Appetizer Mobile, a New York-based app development agency. 

Like what, you ask?

Here's Edelson's example. Say you're Dunkin' Donuts or Starbucks, and a customer has your app linked to the watch. The device's sensors can tell you the person's heart rate, location and perhaps body temperature. 

One million devices?

So you know where the consumer is relative to your stores and when exactly would be a good time to offer up that $1-off coupon for a drink or bite to eat, with personalized data on why this particular individual should take you up on the offer—right now. 

"The device will know a lot about you, and by tapping into your wireless body network can serve ads that are more engaging," Edelson said. 

Creeped out yet? Apple sensed that the first version of the product may be too soon to usher in a whole new era of privacy concerns and that the technology just wasn't ready. 

The Wall Street Journal reported in February that much of the health data Apple was hoping to generate with the watch were unreliable, because the sensors performed inconsistently in tests and varied based on skin types and how tightly people wore the device. 

A spokesperson for Cupertino, California-based Apple said, "It's pretty well-known among developers that access to the sensors is not available through WatchKit," and didn't provide further comment.

According to the Apple Watch website, the initial version will have a heart rate sensor, Wi-Fi and GPS to track distances, and an accelerometer to monitor steps and calculate calories burned. 

Edelson expects that within eight to 12 months, Apple will start to open that data up to developers with opt-in permissions for consumers. Combining all of that developer creativity with more body-reading capabilities that are likely coming in the future will enable the Apple Watch to blow away the competition, he predicts. 

Apple Watch will be available for pre-order on April 10, 2015.
Source: Apple Inc. 
Apple Watch will be available for pre-order on April 10, 2015.

Rise, a San Francisco-based start-up that connects consumers with nutritionists through an iPhone app, is anticipating equally dramatic improvements as the watch matures. 

In the pre-Apple Watch world, Rise has its users snap photos of their meals and share them with a nutritionist, who acts as a coach. The coach then provides feedback and suggestions as to how the client can eat healthier, with the end goal often of losing weight. 

Imagine if the coach was being sent real-time data from a watch on the customer's calorie intake, number of steps taken, daily activities and location. There's a stream of information that can be used to make recommendations, like a nearby place to go for a hearty, healthy spinach salad or, when is a good time to buy that bottle of water and bag of nuts. 

"We want to make sure we can push these suggestions to you in a way that's very low friction," said Suneel Gupta, co-founder and CEO of Rise. "We're making a bet on this idea that the person that we're actually serving is going to have access to far more data and that will continue to increase."

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