TECHNOLOGY

Care for a Pie with your Apple Watch?

Pie co-founders Pieter Walraven (left) and Thijs Jacobs. Their messaging app was among a handful of local apps made available from day one of the Apple Watch launch back in April.
Pie co-founders Pieter Walraven (left) and Thijs Jacobs. Their messaging app was among a handful of local apps made available from day one of the Apple Watch launch back in April.PHOTO: PIE

THE launch of the Apple Watch in April proved a timely boost for local tech firms such as Pie.

Pie's messaging app for the watch was released on the same day the Apple Watch debuted in limited numbers in nine countries, including the United States and Australia.

The device goes on sale in Singapore tomorrow.

The free messaging app lets employees at a workplace set up special groups to chat and share photos, documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

Co-founder Pieter Walraven said the app was featured in the "One-Touch Messaging" category in the Apple Watch app store across Asia.

He said the app has been well received but did not disclose how many times it has been downloaded.

Pie's developers worked closely with Apple to ensure that the design worked well on the watch's small screen.

"The limited screen real estate forces you to focus and extract the core value of your app. It's all about simple actions and elegant and clean design," he said.

Apple Watch owners can use the app to manage new messages and receive text, images or video messages without having to take out their iPhones. They can also dictate replies and new messages.

Pie's research showed that during meetings, people found reading messages on their wrist far less invasive than whipping out their phones.

"The Apple Watch can serve as a logical extension of this type of modern workspace set-up," said Mr Walven.

The one-year-old start-up recently raised $1.2 million from Japanese venture capital firm Gree Ventures. The funds will be used to add new features and develop technology.

The Pie app was among a handful of local apps made available from day one of the Apple Watch launch. They are considered companion apps, which means that users must download the corresponding iPhone apps first.

The apps include those from Singapore Airlines, online news portal AsiaOne, interval timer Timers, bus schedule SG NextBus, Dues and Nebulo, which provides air quality information.

They are all free except for Timers and Dues, which cost US$4.99 (S$6.70) each.

Mr Muh Hon Cheng, who developed SG NextBus and Timers, said developing apps for the Apple Watch was challenging.

"Although Timers has the same features as the iPhone, we had to redevelop the app from scratch because it used a different operating system," said Mr Muh, who has developed several apps for Apple products.

Mr Muh and fellow developer Lin Junjie spent a few weeks redesigning the app. The final version had to be rigorously tested to ensure it was bug-free and stable before Apple approved it for its app store.

"We're fortunate to have Apple feature our app when it was launched globally. Our sales went up," said Mr Muh, who did not disclose how much revenue the app has generated.

chngkeg@sph.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2015, with the headline 'Care for a Pie with your Apple Watch?'. Print Edition | Subscribe