Matthew Price

Apple Watch: Third-Party Complications

There are two ways the Apple Watch can convey information: it can “push” information to you when it thinks you’ll need it, or you can seek out and “pull” information when you want it. Of the two methods, it’s quicker for the Watch to push you information, but what happens when it can’t read your mind?

What if you could preemptively tell it 3–4 pieces of information you need most, so it can display them every time you lift your wrist?

Consider the attention hierarchy laid out by Horace Dediu:

The Apple Watch offers a hierarchy of surfaces onto which software can compete for attention:

  1. The Complication Layer
  2. The Notification Layer
  3. The Glances Layer
  4. The App Screen

These surfaces are arranged in a hierarchy where the highest is the most accessible and the lowest is the least accessible.

It’s safe to say that Apple is investing efforts in smarter notifications, à la Google Now, but complications will always be the quickest way to pull information from the Watch since they don’t require you to touch the screen.1

If Apple’s goal is to make your experience with the Watch as quick as possible, to help you grab information in a matter of seconds instead of minutes, then allowing third-party apps to make complications is an appealing solution. I have a suspicion we’ll eventually see them.

  1. Ben Thompson expounds upon this idea, adding Siri to the mix. But no matter how fast Siri responds, you always have the delay of talking to it—at least until computers can literally read our minds.