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Accessibility and Apple Watch apps

Steven Aquino | July 31, 2015
MG Siegler shares his thoughts on Apple Watch "three months in." He writes:

The issue of function not following form

Brian X. Chen recently co-wrote a story for The New York Times in which he describes third-party developers (such as Facebook) as reticent to writing apps for Apple Watch. The logic behind this trepidation is best summed up by Facebook's Adam Mosseri, who says:

"I don't know if we could get it all in there in a way that feels good and works well," Mr. Mosseri said in a recent interview. "You'd just want to get your phone out at that point."

While viewing content on a small display can be problematic for anyone, the issue is even more troubling for the visually impaired. I'd much rather scroll through Facebook on my iPhone than on my Apple Watch. I don't want a fully featured Facebook app on my watch, because the user experience would be terrible. Not only would it be murder on my eyes, but my finger would surely cramp from constantly flicking the Watch's screen and Digital Crown.

The biggest issue with Apple Watch apps isn't that developers are reluctant to make them, but rather that there seems to be an expectation from many developers that Apple Watch apps should be miniature iPhone apps. My opinion is that not every iPhone app needs or deserves a watch version, precisely because of the small screen. Tons of content in a small space isn't ideal for anyone, and especially for people like me whose eyesight isn't the greatest.

Instagram is, to me, the canonical example of an iPhone app that doesn't warrant an Apple Watch version. I don't see the appeal in viewing photos on a screen that small. (Even the built-in Photos app is dubious.) Instagram was one of the first apps I tried after getting my Apple Watch on launch day, and I think I deleted it after two minutes. The thumbnails were way too small to see comfortably. I get the appeal of wanting to be notified when someone posts a photo, but that's all. Instagram just doesn't translate well otherwise; as with Facebook, you're better off pulling out your phone.

My favorite Apple Watch apps: A precious few

There are few Apple Watch apps that I use regularly. They are:

  • Pedometer++
  • Activity
  • MLB At Bat
  • Fantastical
  • Transit
  • Overcast

All of the apps I list here are used in Glances, which I very much enjoy for quickly gleaning information. My favorite ones, though, are the first three.

Pedometer++ is great because I enjoy keeping track of my step count throughout the day, and the stats are presented in an easy to read format. Similarly, Activity is useful in that I also like to see how my circles are progressing through the day. Both apps are on my watch for the sole purpose of motivating me to move more often.

 

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