Bonial Devs Rock Apple Watch Interface With Stunning Hands-Free Shopping Experience
Arno Keifl recalls Bonial Tech Labs’ unique opportunity to work with Apple in bringing the Retale iOS interface to Apple Watch.
We didn’t want to let this opportunity slip through our fingers, so as soon as Apple invited us to try out the new Watch SDK we started exploring our options.
The goal was to deliver an innovative hands-free approach to the Retale shopping experience. Apple offered the most promising platform to deliver this with the heavily anticipated release of Apple Watch.
A dedicated team of developers, designers, and product managers spent two weeks brainstorming and planning. We iterated on different mockups and prototypes—testing them with people from other departments, but in the end it boiled it down to what we thought would give the best value to our users.
The concept described an app that would let users find stores from their favorite retailers with no effort—a hands-free shopping experience that helps people while they’re out in busy shopping streets. One tap and you know which stores are near you, two taps and you get turn-by-turn directions to your favorite shopping location. Our strict goal was that no interaction would take longer than 10 seconds.
We used our existing backend algorithms to match the location-based user data with our extensive store database to deliver the best results. Paired with an easy-to-use interface allowing for very quick interactions, we had a great concept at the end of the two weeks and were ready to start the development.
This is where things got really interesting. In the six weeks that followed, the developers had to use a beta SDK, which is why they couldn’t be sure until the end, which features and APIs the Watch would really support. Apple was holding back important information about how the Watch would work and which Watch apps were allowed until the very last moment. Therefore, the team had to constantly check blogs and news sites to stay informed about new announcements, leaks and rumors. They were essentially working in a black box.
Among The First Apple Watch Apps
Luckily, one week before our planned release, Apple invited us to spend a couple of days with their Apple Watch experts in London to make sure our app would work flawlessly on the watch hardware. After five weeks of development, this was the first time we actually got to work with the Watch hardware instead of just an emulator. It was only at that point that we knew for sure, that our app worked on the final Watch hardware. We also found out more details about how the so-called handoff feature worked. Users could start an action on the watch and continue it on the phone. We made use of this feature to let people see store information on the watch and then turn to their phone to browse through available weekly ads for that same store.
When we started the project we had a lot of open questions that weren’t answered until just one week before the release. Nonetheless we came up with a plan, iterated on our ideas and built a stable application that delivered actual value to the user. We delivered some minor fixes after testing our watch app with Apple in London and were on time for the launch of the Apple Watch on May 2nd, 2015. The Retale/kaufDA/Bonial app was one of the first apps to support Apple Watch.
Since then, we’ve seen our Watch user base grow, and we are expecting usage to grow further as Apple is selling more and more Watches.
Arno Kiefl studied Computer Science and Media and joined Bonial.com in 2011. After collecting first knowledge as as Product Owner of the web front-end team, he followed his passion for good products and is now supporting the mobile app team on multiple user facing features, especially in terms of writing concepts and user focused testing.