Ai Editorial: Apple Watch Apps for Travel?

What to expect from an app tailored for Apple Watch

Apps for the newly introduced Apple Watch device are garnering lot of attention Ai Correspondent Ritesh Gupta interacts with an Asian mobile booking start-up to assess the utility of such app.  

Apple calls it its most personal device yet, one that lets you do familiar things more quickly and conveniently. Yes, it’s fascinating indeed as one digs deeper into what all Apple Watch can do. As easy as it may sound for certain things we are used to do, assessing the real utility of the new device for travellers is intriguing.

Expectedly, travel brands are responding. And they are making it clear what to expect from Apple Watch - How Apple Watch can enhance a journey? What are the strong points and limitations of this new offering from a traveller’s perspective?

One statement clearly stood out as I interacted with last-minute hotel booking app HotelQuickly’s

COO and CMO Christian Mischler about Apple Watch: “It’s all there, on your Apple Watch, right on your wrist.”

It was captivating to know more about the experience of crafting a new app for another iOS device.

What to expect?

The Apple Watch will not be hidden in a pocket and readily available with the most important information for a traveller. One of the highlights is access to contextual, time-sensitive information just when it’s needed. For instance, the app could show the next trip up until 24 hours before departure.

In case of HotelQuickly, the team has integrated a hand-off between iPhone app and Watch app, so that the user can pick up the screen that was last viewed on the watch also on the iPhone, e.g. booking details or the map in order to navigate to the hotel.

Also, the team has added hotel locations in EN and local language to the Watch app, making it easy for a traveller to show the address to a taxi driver, either when on the phone, when the iPhone is in some luggage, or when the iPhone is out of battery. The company also clarifies that its Apple Watch app does not serve as a replacement for the app on iPhone. In fact, it goes on to say: trust us on this one, booking a hotel room on a tiny screen is not convenient at all, but brings you some very handy additional features to simplify your check-in.

“I believe currently the battery lifetime is a concern and will hopefully be improved in future editions of the Watch. Time (and usage) will tell further practical limitations or the most appreciated features of the Watch,” shares Mischler.

Crafting an app for Apple Watch

HotelQuickly’s iOS Lead Developer Anthony Collins says one would instinctively approach the Apple Watch as you would any other iDevice.

Elaborating on the experience of preparing an app, he shared the thought directed towards in-house designer where initially along the lines of; 'Please scale down our iPhone app to be suitable on the Apple Watch' and 'Make the sure all the features we have are not lost in the scale down'.

After reading a lot about Apples' own approach and speaking to their own development team, the team at HotelQuickly understood it was missing the target.

“By its very nature, the Apple Watch is an extension of the iPhone. We needed to approach our Apple Watch app in much the same way. Offer an additional layer on our iPhone app that we believe, our customers will truly use and appreciate,” shared Collins.  

“Making a hotel booking requires a certain amount analysis; the price, the pictures of the hotel, what facilities it offers, the distance to a particular metro station or airport, how the price compares to another companies. That’s even after we have carefully curated a list of great hotels. This is best done on our iPhone app where there is simply more screen real estate. Pictures of a hotel really don't do themselves justice on such a small screen. So we focussed on the post booking event,” shared Mischler.

“Our app will get you to the hotel. Give you all the information you need to check into that hotel. You won't need to dig your phone out of your bag after making the booking. It’s all there, on your Apple Watch, right on your wrist,” he said.

Some of the highlights of the HotelQuickly Apple Watch app are:

  • Access pertinent booking details: browse through current and previous bookings and find the hotel name, booking reference number, arrival date and hotel’s phone number.
  • Press for two seconds to open the map feature. The app will show the address in both English and the local language. Press the map for two seconds and hotel location opens automatically in the Maps app on the Apple Watch.
  • With the ‘handoff’ feature, you can use HotelQuickly on your iPhone right where you left off at the Apple Watch app.

Biggest challenge

“The biggest challenge we found, is the fact that this unknown territory,” said Collins. “Add to this, a fairly, intentionally limited software development codebase, that Apple have made accessible to developers, it created a very creative and interesting atmosphere in our iOS development team. Another obvious drawback is the lack of an Apple Watch to test our creation on. Thankfully, we we're able to get into a secret Apple Lab in Hong Kong - where we had access to actual Apple Watch hardware -  during early April which really amplified our development push. It also was pretty cool to see exactly how the HotelQuickly app would look out-in-the-wild.”

The team also complimented Apple.

Overall, as Mischler pointed out, Apple offers an “incredible amount of support, assistance and guidance in the uptake of any of their new technologies”.

“With the Apple Watch, we had a truly invaluable contact whom, was incredibly informative and aimed to help us get the very most out of our Apple Watch app for our customers,” he said.  

He also asserted that it’s also a fairly simple argument.

“If you want to stay ahead of the fold, you need to embrace every new technology that may come along from Apple. Why? Because our customers use and embrace Apple products and as such, expect to be able to use our application with all portable Apple technologies available to them,” Mischler rightly pointed out, referring to the prowess of Apple.

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