Walgreens recognized early on that the Apple Watch's form factor would be a perfect device to house tidbits of personalized information. They've already updated their iOS app to make it easier for consumers to manage their medication schedules from their wrists.
But if the mandate was clear, the road to designing software for the Apple Watch required some rethinking of mobile design, as well as some help from Apple. The company began experimenting with crafting Watch software in November, after Apple Inc. launched a special software development kit for its wearable.
The resulting app, released Monday, is not a purely Apple Watch product. The app, like the device itself, gets most of its functionality by pairing with an iPhone. After connecting with the Pill Reminders feature inside the Walgreens iPhone app, the Watch software will notify consumers to take their medication, and allow them to mark a medication as taken or skipped. Users can view on their wrist which medications they might have been missed or may be taken next. Reminders prompt users to order a refill with a single tap. Follow-up notifications appear on the device when the medication is ready for pickup.
Walgreens sees more promise in functionality coming to their app this fall when the company will integrate its Balance Rewards loyalty program with the Apple Pay digital payment feature, allowing consumers to use their points to pay for products from Pay, via their Watches or iPhones, in lieu of scanning rewards cards. This was a feature that Apple added during their WWDC.
Many of the advances shown for WatchOS 2 during Apple's keynote on Monday will allow developers to get at aspects of the device they weren't able to tap into originally, like bringing video to the watch face. Apple Watch apps are going to get cooler and more intimate over time.
But like everything in life, there's always someone that sees the glass half empty. Forrester Research thinks that Walgreens has failed with their watch at the basic level. Forrester's analyst wonders if a large enough number of elderly patrons even have an iPhone and Apple Watch to make their app worth it.
If you think long term, the answer is simple. Yes, I have an iPhone and could get an Apple watch over time. I'll also be getting older and I don't think I'll become an idiot when I retire. So it's good to know that Walgreens and others are thinking longer term instead of what will work 6 months from now or not. For more on this story see the full Wall Street Journal report here.