The truth behind an Apple Watch app business

The hype is over and it’s time to evaluate the Apple Watch app business. A local server about smart watches asked me for an interview about the development of Apple Watch which was a great opportunity to sum up our pioneering experience. Below are a few interesting figures which might be useful for anyone who dreams about big profits from launching their own Watch app in the near future.

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Chytrehodinky.net (the server name in english is “Smartwatch.net”): Can you tell us how Flow Studio began?

Flow Studio was founded in 2011. I founded it together with Richard Horin, who I knew originally from the advertising business for many years. We went into this business knowing that the Czech Republic has a lot of great designers and programmers, but on the other hand, lack the ability to sell these things as well as put them together and bring the idea to market. Today, we have four guys on full-time. The two of us with Richard plus two programmers and a number of freelancers (we have people for gaming graphics, graphics for application design, a lady for texts and communicating with the media and so on). So far, we have issued 10 titles, mostly games on iOS. Apart from these games we have recently developed an Apple Watch Arrive application (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/arrive-private-gps-location/id981504763?mt=8). Overall, we have nearly 7 million downloads.

Arrive for Apple Watch. What is it?

Arrive is an application that enables either the iPhone or Watch to privately share a location with someone close very quickly. I’ll give an example: I’m going home, whether by car or bike, and I can share my location with my wife so she can see where I am and when I am going to arrive. Equally, if you know you are not going to make a meeting, share your location with your business partner immediately so they can see where you are. Location is shared 1:1, and after a certain time which you set, your shared location expires.

“The Arrive app for Apple Watch is robust and full-featured, while still keeping things simple.” – AppAdvice

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How does the Watch app work exactly?

It’s very different from the phone. WatchKit has some big restrictions in its initial version.  We found, for example, that we cannot just generate a unique map link to the SMS. The phone thus has to generate a unique link that the user shares with the person on the other side with an SMS that can be opened anywhere – in a browser, and on the watch. Concerning the Watch extension limitations, we finally made our own SMS gateway, so it basically sends a request to a server and from there it creates an SMS to the specified number.

Who came up with the idea?

I have to admit that this was my idea, because I was looking to solve the problem of my late arrivals. At the same time, it’s convenient when I am going biking, for my own personal safety.

How does Arrive look for now on the market?

It has fallen quite short of expectations unfortunately. The application has approximately 6,000 downloads, which is in my view nothing. The reason is clear. The Apple Watch Store is divided into several categories and they are, so to speak, the very same since Apple Watch launched by the end of April. They do not rotate new and noteworthy apps the same way that we are used to in the classic App Store. I can explain it in this way: In the Apple Watch Store, Apple began by featuring strong brands such as Evernote, Wunderlist, Runtastic and so on. Thus giving users better orientation and the option to download something they already know. On the other hand, for independent developers who do not have a big brand it is a major problem. Even if the applications are of the highest quality, they simply are not visible at that moment. Furthermore, Apple did not comment on what they plan to do in the future to get the other apps to the people in some way. Arrive is now free of charge and the premium purchase is there basically for “decorative” purposes, the revenue per user is low to use paid acquisition. We contacted about 60 journalists but most of them focus on the entire Watch market situation rather than some new apps. Actually, we are now in a deadlock and I honestly do not know what to do, both from a customer perspective and from the perspective of the author as well as think of an approach to it.

What is your experience with the iOS development and the WatchKit? Plusses, minuses?

iOS is debugged and it works beautifully. However, WatchKit at the moment is terribly cut down to where developers cannot do quite a few things. And developer’s, you might say, have too much on their hands, all of which Apple manages itself. The only option, therefore, is to wait for the autumn update probably, which gives more space and full interaction with a faster watch.

What is your opinion on the Apple Watch?

I gave back the Apple watch to Richard few days ago and you know what? I don’t miss it. The device is technically brilliant but Apple hasn’t defined the “reason why”. It’s the first time in Apple’s history and I’m afraid this will strongly effect the adoption as well as customer satisfaction. We’ve defined the main purpose as a “time saver”. When you look at this definition, Apple Watch delivers promise but the time saved is not such a big deal to invest $350 from my own pocket. Many journalists have the same opinion which they don’t publish for “political reasons”. The truth is that they have Apple Watch on their shelves at home.

Are you going to make any further applications for smart watches?

From what you have previously read, you might conclude that it does not make much sense. Let’s take a look at Arrive: the development took 2-3 months of work before the release of the application and we also had to go to London for the fine-tuning of the application before its release. We gave it a lot of effort and as a result we have 6,000 downloads. Unless the market somehow changes fundamentally, it makes no sense to try it from a business perspective. So we do not plan at the moment to develop more applications for smart watches. Let’s us wait and see what the fall update will bring.

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