App Development

Three Crucial watchOS 3 Concepts

At WWDC, Apple announced updates to all of their platforms. I’d like to focus on some of the key changes in watchOS 3 and how developers can leverage the new technologies to craft great user experiences on Apple Watch.

Three Major Concepts

Throughout the week of WWDC, Apple emphasized three crucial concepts when creating an app for watchOS 3: glanceability, actionability, and responsiveness. Let’s take a closer look at each one.


Apple Watch lives on the user’s wrist, and it has the smallest display size across Apple’s platforms. Apps need to provide a view into the user’s most important data quickly and with as little friction as possible. It’s worth considering a custom complication, which allows the user to place your app directly on the watch face. In watchOS 3, this is even more important, as complications are now the easiest and fastest way for a user to engage with your app. The system will keep those apps in memory, providing instantaneous launch. Slow app launches have been frequent causes of negative user feedback on the watchOS platform, which makes the prospect of instantaneous launch exciting from both UX and development perspectives.


Designing and developing interactions with a watchOS app requires a judicious approach. Apple’s guidance for the duration of interactions with watchOS apps is only two seconds, measured from the time the user raises their wrist to the time the task is complete. Longer interactions should be deferred to the iPhone. To-do lists are great case studies for this. Users can raise their wrist, look at the most important items on their list, and mark them as completed with minimal disruption to their workflow. Managing the lists could be done on the iPhone paired to the Apple Watch.

Deciding on which interactions to include in a watchOS app can be difficult, but the reward is an experience that lets your customers use your app effectively and without friction. Thoughtful UX strategy and design work is critical here, as well as consulting with developers to ensure that desired interactions can be implemented efficiently.


With a goal of keeping interaction times at no more than two seconds, there is no room for lag in a watchOS app. When the user taps on an interface element or interacts with the Digital Crown, they expect immediate feedback. Using new background refresh APIs in watchOS 3, developers can make sure that the necessary data is ready for display as soon as the user needs it without placing an unnecessary burden on the device’s battery.

Before watchOS 3, viewing details for several items in a list required a lot of interaction with the Watch’s display. The user would have to select an item, view its details, go back to the list, and then repeat the process. To help with navigating through data, tables on watchOS 3 now support paging. This allows users to select one detail item and smoothly scroll through the rest. As an added benefit, users can scroll using either the display or the Digital Crown on the side of the Watch. (To any developers reading this: I discussed the API behind the new paging functionality in a recent episode of our WillowTalk vlog, which you can view here: )


watchOS 3 is a great advancement of the platform, and it makes the Apple Watch more compelling than ever. Watch apps provide users a fast and effective way to access the data that they care about most. We recommend taking a deep dive into the new, exciting technologies announced at WWDC. If you have any questions on how to integrate this technology into your mobile strategy, get in touch with our experts and we’ll start a conversation.

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