In the six or so years since the iPhone was first introduced, consumers have spent roughly $50 billion dollars on mobile applications, and more than half of that in the last twelve months. Not surprisingly, this revenue opportunity has attracted huge investment from the Venture Capital community, reaching as high as 25% of all VC investments in certain quarters.
Needless to say, Mobile has very quickly become a very big business. While it’s difficult to compare apples to oranges, the growth of this market from non-existent to $30b in a little more than 5 years is even more impressive than the original rise of PCs in the 1980’s and 90’s. And perhaps even more remarkable was who captured that market — small shops like OMGPOP (RIP) made a killing by optimizing for mobile and moving faster than the established competition.
Now, as investment into mobile begins to level off and the industry matures, Apple could be poised to set off another tectonic shift in application development with its impending introduction of the iWatch.
iWatch probably won’t displace mobile to the same extent mobile and tablet computing have displaced desktop. A watch face is simply too small for many of the applications that have made mobile computing so successful, and it’s hard to see people ditching their phones wholesale in favor of watches.
But it’s also safe to assume that whatever share of our attention the iWatch does capture, it will capture it even more quickly than its mobile predecessor. Developers have now been through this song and dance twice with Mobile and Tablet, and are going to be ready for the next screen size that comes along.
That’s why this time around, it’s even more important that you get out in front of the shift before it even takes place. You know who your competitors will be. Here are four questions you need to ask yourself while the iWatch is still a hypothetical product.
Are You Ready for the iWatch? 4 Questions to Ask Yourself
1) Do I even need a Smartwatch strategy?
Is your product mobile? Does it require frequent passive attention? Which features, if any, would fit comfortably and logically on a 1.5 inch screen?
If you can think of any benefits at all to a Smartwatch app, it makes sense to think about your strategy in order to execute the minute they release the developer API. If not, don’t get caught up in the hype. Instead, focus on your core product but always keep an eye on the competition — they may see an opportunity in Smartwatches that you don’t.
2) Do I have the right architecture?
When the iPhone gold rush first hit, many companies hacked together crude APIs or used screen scraping to get their iPhone app up and running as quickly as possible.
In retrospect, this was a big mistake. Several years later those same companies had to repeat the process for Android and again for Tablet OS’s, and now are finding their internet infrastructure woefully insufficient for a multichannel world.
The better approach, by far, is to have a solid API that will be able to comfortably accommodate new applications as operating systems continue to proliferate. Can you say this about your infrastructure?
3) Do I have the right team?
If the iWatch came out tomorrow, who on your team would be in charge of building the new product? Ideally, someone with experience quickly getting up to speed on mobile platforms with different screen sizes. If you’d prefer to outsource, at least think about who would be best equipped to source a 3rd party shop and manage the relationship.
4) Are we practicing Responsive Design?
Rather than building a brand new app every time a piece of hardware is introduced with a slightly different screen size, many companies have opted for the even more flexible route of responsive design HTML pages.
While a mobile page may not be able to leverage the hardware’s features to the full extent of a native app, it has an advantage when it comes to speed of delivery. Once you’ve optimized it on a small screen, you won’t have to write a single line of code to bring it to market on a new device.
In the months ahead, I expect responsive design websites to optimize for even smaller screens than the ~3 inch (mobile) screens they currently bottom out at.
Do you think the iWatch is going to make a major splash or a fatal flop? What preparations are you making, if any?