If there’s to be a blast of wearable devices and smartwatches in 2014, as analysts forecast, the bigger question becomes when more apps will emerge that work with such devices.
So far, a shortage of apps has been a major shortfall of many wearable devices. Some smartwatches might have only 15 to 20 apps, and they often need to work over Bluetooth to connect to a nearby smartphone. Compare that number to the 1 million-plus apps in Apple’s App Store or Google Play for smartphones, and you begin to see the challenge.
Analysts expect not only an explosion of wearable devices in the next three years, but an explosion of mobile apps of all kinds. Research firms predicted that wearable devices will drive half of all app interactions by 2017, a startling prediction, but believes was reinforced by the flurry of wearable devices shown this month.
The level of use of wearable apps is very nominal today. But the new cadre of smartwatches shown and things pinned to clothes [or other devices], shows it is safe to say that there will soon be a way to interact, through a mobile app, that’s in lieu of almost any other way of interacting, including the mobile Web or the desktop Web.”
Virtually all vendors are choosing mobile apps to interact with the way we will use a wearable device. It is being predicted that 50% of all app interactions will come from wearable devices by 2017 partly because of the way wearables work.
For example, many wearables won’t have a user interface, such as a heart rate monitor that is strapped to a runner’s chest. Offloading that interface to the user’s smartphone also means that the wearable depends on the mobile app for user input and output, configuration, content creation and consumption and, possibly, wireless or GPS connectivity.
The wearable connection to a mobile smartphone or tablet is a way for a manufacturer to keep the device small and efficient, which reduces the device cost and favors the use of apps that are easy to maintain and update.
Some of the data from fitness wearables will be stored briefly on the wearable device or on the smartphone the wearable is paired with, but many apps will require a Wi-Fi or cellular connection to take the onboard data and upload it to the cloud where it can be processed and analyzed before it is reported back to the user.
Apps are an obvious and convenient platform to enable great products and services to be developed.
Part of the reason wearable apps are expected to grow so quickly is due to the expected growth in wearables like smartwatches.
It is predicted that app downloads will reach $77 billion by 2017. Today, about 92% of app downloads are free, but users will often accept advertising or data connectivity in exchange for use of the app. Businesses benefit from free mobiles apps as a means of better engaging with their customers.