Watches cover image
Watches in the Wild

The Interviews

Seth: Substitute Teacher and Hospital Volunteer

Standing outside of the Berkeley BART station, I watched for individuals that walked up the station stairs engrossed in their phones. On Wednesday, August 29th, I encountered a 24-year-old part-time substitute teacher, part time volunteer at the Alta-Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, California. It was evident he had a busy schedule with lots of commute within the Berkeley-Oakland area. It was also evident that it was difficult for him to access his phone regularly during his jobs. Through my interview, I learned that this individual (alias Seth) uses his phone most to check real-time schedules of BART and local buses (AC Transit). His phone is usually in his backpack, which is not always accessible and sometimes hard to reach on a busy BART. He notes that a real-time application synthesizing all local public transportation would be very useful on a smart-watch. He shares that while Google Maps shows scheduled times, they do not usually show real-time delays or notify arrival information. Seth also shares that he often uses his phone for alarms, reminders, and calendar events: something he would love to see implemented on a smart-watch. He enjoys the iPhone’s ability to show location-based reminders (“When I reach Safeway, remind me to buy bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes”), which he shares should be available on a smart-watch. Which leads him to his next topic: meal planning. Seth shares that on his BART-ride home at the end of the day, he often watches Tasty videos to figure out what he’ll make for dinner. Seth would like an app that shows recipe videos organized based on genre, and comes with pre-made grocery lists to minimize typing on a small, watch-screen. Seth also enjoys reading current events regarding Health and Medicine on his phone during his BART rides, and would like an app that can create 1-minute reads or headlines for current events based on personal interests. Finally, Seth shares that he leaves a puppy at home as he heads out for a long, busy day, and often wonders what his puppy is doing at home. He would like an app that would allow him to check up on his dog, without having to access his phone during work several times a day.

Jay: A Software Engineer

I found my next interviewee (alias Jay) in a similar situation: I approached a phone-using individual outside BART. This individual turned out to be a 25-year-old software engineer at a startup located in San Francisco. I offered to walk him home while conducting my interview, and on this walk, I learned that Jay prefers using BART and Uber rather than driving his own car. He shares that an implementation of Uber or Lyft would be very useful on a smart watch so that he could readily call his ride before reaching the station to minimize wait time. With his phone usually in his pocket and his clipper card in his hand, Jay thinks Uber on a smart watch would be very convenient on a busy BART ride. Jay also shares that he often shops during his BART ride, and an implementation of Amazon would be very useful on a smart watch. Jay also shares that he often goes out for lunch in the city, and with all the options available, he often uses Yelp to find good, nearby restaurants of his choice. Therefore, an app similar to Yelp would be ideal for him. This app, he shares, should implement a feature where he can order remotely for pick-up at a later time, minimizing the time he is out of office for lunch. Finally, with a busy social life, Jay would like to be able to check his phone, without checking his phone. In other words, he would like to be able to mirror his phone on his smart watch, view all the notifications his phone has received, reply to messages with simple, automated or pre-scripted responses, retweet tweets, like posts, etc. It is evident that Jay, like many of us, are addicted to checking our phones, and would like a way to do so without appearing to be extensively using his phone while at work.


I came up with 12 ideas for potential Smartwatch apps that would be helpful for the two individuals I interviewed.

  1. Real-time local transportation information: This app would be different than just a schedule or a Google Maps route because it would provide all real-time arrival and departure information of all available public transportation, including AC Transit, BART, CalTrain, etc. It would notify delays or arrivals of a person’s selected or often-travelled transportation as push notifications. It would also allow people to pre-plan commutes. The app should inform the commuters what time they should leave home, as well as automatically find available more efficient alternatives if a transportation is currently delayed.
  2. Calendar events and reminders: This app would allow individuals to plan their day by creating calendar events similar to Google Calendar. However, it would also implement Apple’s reminder feature where it allows Reminders to be displayed as push notifications when at a current location to improve efficiency. For example, display certain reminders when an individual reaches work (for example: send an email, set a meeting, etc.), versus a different set of reminders when the individual reaches a grocery store (for example, a grocery list). This would allow the individual to remain on track by being notified calendar events, as well as to not forget errands or tasks.
  3. Mirror your phone: We all miss our phone when we’re not supposed to be using it. This app would show us our notifications that are currently being received on our phone. For messages, it would give us the option to send pre-written or generic automated responses (to minimize typing extensively on a small screen). For tweets we can retweet, for posts we can like, etc. This way, we can still access the social aspects of our phone, without looking like we use our phone all day at work.
  4. Amazon: Shop on Amazon from your smartwatch. Tweak the regular Amazon UI so that products are displayed based on previous purchases and interests, or category-wise, rather than typing out a search (to minimize typing). As a result, the app would be more for browsing or window-shopping than actual intended shopping. This would be a good way to kill time on public transportation or waiting rooms, etc.
  5. Alexa plus security: Access a redefined Alexa in order to control what’s going on at home. Turn on lights, activate your doggy feeder, close your garage door in case you forgot on the way out, or view feed from pre-set cameras to keep an eye on things at home. Use this feature as a security system, or a pet watcher. This way you can watch your pet while you’re sitting at work, or you can walk into an already well-lit and warm home after a long day at work.
  6. SOS and emergency alert system: Send pre-set contacts an emergency message, video, audio, and location from your smartwatch with just a push of a button in case of an emergency. This feature is already implemented on some smartphones, but this app will also dial 911 or the nearest police station.
  7. All-platform rideshare app: Which is cheaper, Uber or Lyft? This app will let you choose between all rideshare applications. It will allow you to set your origin and destination, as well as carpooling preferences, and show you all the current price offerings as well as wait times for Uber, Lyft, and all other carpooling apps. You can browse these while you’re at your last BART stop in order to call a ride ahead of time and save some wait time.
  8. Fitness: Instead of strapping your phone to your arm, or constantly picking up the step counter that falls out of your pocket every time you start jogging, let this application keep track of your workouts from your wrist. Conveniently located on your smart watch, this application will have access to your steps, bike rides, heart rate, etc. This app will count every step, even your walk after work to the BART station. You can also manually enter any other workouts, as well as diet and weight information. Connect it to your Google account of iCloud to sync the information to your phone.
  9. Music: Sync your Spotify, Apple Music, and all other music application libraries together to have all-access to your music on your smart watch. Create playlists of your favorite songs, or search new songs by artist and genre. This app also incorporates Shazam in case you like what your Uber driver is playing but are too shy to ask about it.
  10. Current Events: Get headlines or 1-minute reads of current events and news topics in pre-selected categories based on interest. This serves as entertainment while on commute or in waiting rooms and boring meetings. Instead of having to read full newspaper articles from your laptop, this app will allow you to stay on top of things going on around the world easily and efficiently while in transit. You can have a full-article emailed to you if you express special interest in a headline or 1-minute read, to check out later.
  11. Tasty, meal planning: You’re sitting on BART and you’re trying to figure out what’s for dinner tonight. Open this app to display mouthwatering recipe videos based on cuisine. With the video comes health information, as well as a pre-made grocery list that you can download or send to your reminders. Options for sides or complementing drinks are also available.
  12. Go Loco, local businesses: Similar to Yelp, yet this app expands to find not only restaurants, but other businesses of interest to you in your locality. Choose a category, such as food, shopping, bank, nightlife, gaming, etc. and this app will find the highly-rated businesses near you pertaining to your choice. It will display the rating, location, phone number, website, price range, and hours. For restaurants and select other services, it will give you the option to pre-order in order to minimize waiting time, such as during lunch breaks or simply for efficiency.

Low-Fidelity Prototype: Go Loco!

Splash Screen
Go Loco! Splash Screen

Go Loco! is an application that uses your current location to find businesses of interest near you. It begins by finding your current location, and asking you to choose a specific category: which can include restaurants, shopping malls, entertainment centers, bars and nightlife, etc.

Current Location
Find Current Location, Select a Category.

These four buttons appear in the main screen, and a “More Categories…” button appears at the bottom of the screen leading you to choose from a plethora of different categories.

More Categories
More Categories, Search.

There is also a Search bar on the More Categories screen, implemented so you can find a desired category more quickly.

View Choices, Pick One
View Choices, Pick One.

Next, your choices appear. In the model, the user chose restaurants. You can scroll through hundreds of available businesses in a 10 mile radius near you to find exactly what you’re looking for. Again, there is a search bar implemented in order to find a specific business if you already have something in mind.

More Info
More Info.

After picking a business, you are presented with more information regarding the business. In the prototype, the user chose Cheese Board Pizza, which has highlights “Pizza”, “Vegetarian”, and “Live Music”. It is also rated four stars (out of five). Below is the phone number, with call or text icons next to it. There is also the address, hyperlinked to open in Google Maps, and the Website URL, hyperlinked to open in your default browser. Finally, the hours of operation for the day will be present, as well as a number of dollar signs to represent the price range. This section is similar to Yelp.

Swipe for Share/Options.

Swiping right from the information screen leads you to a share and more options screen. You can click on “Share Cheese Board Pizza on Social Media” to open up a list of social media to share the business on. You can click “Order Now for Pickup” (explained later). You can click “Save to Favorites”, a list of your hand-picked local businesses accessible from the main screen (not shown on prototype). Finally, you can choose to “Write a Review”.

Order Now
Set Pickup Time and Order (followed by name form).

The last and most exciting feature is the application’s ability to let you place an order for pickup at a later time, from select restaurants and businesses of other services. The “Order Now” screen first requests you to choose a pick-up time from a rotating list. Then, it presents the menu (with clickable options such as sizes) for you to select. After scrolling to the end of the page and clicking “Submit Order”, you are presented with a form to fill out your name, contact information, and payment information (optional) for the restaurant or business to receive. This feature is implemented for individuals who are ordering food for their lunch break and would like to minimize wait times, or for general efficiency and ease.

Go Loco! is designed for the smart watch in order to allow individuals to easily find businesses of interest near them, whether they are in commute, at work, or sitting in a waiting room. It serves to make life for the average employed commuter more simple and efficient.

User Testing and Insights

User Testing
User Testing the Prototype with Sam.

I tested my prototype on a potential customer, Sam. Although this app was actually inspired by and discussed in my interview with Jay, I chose Sam to follow-up with in order to remove any biases the user may already have regarding the app. I began by explaining the goal of the app without actually showing or explaining any of the features of the prototype. I simply shared with Sam that Go Loco! is an app to find local businesses one is interested in, and should be used on a smart watch. He then went screen-by-screen and explained to me what he thought each screen’s function was, which was very close to my intended function. This indicated that my prototype was clear and easy to follow. He stated that the app seems very useful, and if he had a smartwatch, he would definitely download it. He did, however, offer some suggestions…

Sam's suggestions, and my insights based on his difficulties:


From these suggestions and insights, I learned that an application's UI must be informative, concise, and entertaining/aesthetically pleasing. I was surprised that Sam asked me to implement more words in some screens, and more pictures in others. This showed me that a UI must be both easy to interpret, but also fun to use. This relates to my interviews because from both the interviews as well as the user-feedback, it is evident that a user wants both efficiency as well as entertainment. Several of the app suggestions my interviewees stated were for entertainment: such as Amazon, the one-minute reads of current events, as well as music. On the other hand, these individuals also asked for efficiency to make their daily routines easier: real-time schedules of public transportation, an all-rideshare platform app, tasty meal planning, home security/dog feeder, etc. In a setting where phones may not always be accessible, users should be able to turn to their smartwatches to make their lives easier as well as more interesting.

Thank you to the three individuals (Seth, Jay, and Sam) who volunteered their time for this exercise! And thank you to Eric Paulos for creating this assignment.