eBay’s New Apple Watch App Offers “A 10-Second Experience”

Buyers and sellers can accomplish dozens of tasks–it’s just that none of them takes very long.

It’s an interesting moment for an Apple Watch app to arrive.


On one hand, any company that didn’t rush to have an app available on the watch’s April 24 launch bought itself some time to think things over–and was able to see its app-in-progress actually running on an Apple Watch, a luxury that the first developers did not have. On the other, a new app can’t yet take advantage of the vastly more powerful possibilities of WatchOS 2, which Apple only announced yesterday.

eBay’s Apple Watch app, which is arriving today, feels like a product of this intermediate era. It doesn’t take advantage of the digital crown, Taptic Engine, or any other features that WatchOS opens up to developers. But compared to the first round of apps, it looks like a relatively rich experience. It has features for both sellers and buyers, multiple screens of information, and 28 interactive notifications that let you keep tabs on your eBay activities.

John Tapley, eBay’s senior product manager for mobile and wearables, told me that the challenge in building an Apple Watch app is in thinking of “10-second experiences.” Usability testing told the company that buyers and sellers had a certain amount of patience: “People will ask for something even if makes your flow a little bit longer.” But it was still important to think about which features do and don’t make sense on a tiny screen. For instance, you can’t browse new listings or initiate a purchase in the app, but can raise your bid in an auction already in progress.

Though eBay chose to take its time with the app rather than rush it out for launch day, Tapley says that it’s still just a first rough draft of what the service should be in wrist-wearable form. “I don’t think anyone has defined what we call glance-able commerce,” Tapley says. “This will be a fairly long-term effort for eBay as we watch the platform evolve.”


About the author

Harry McCracken is the technology editor for Fast Company, based in San Francisco. In past lives, he was editor at large for Time magazine, founder and editor of Technologizer, and editor of PC World.