SpotHero / Product / Apple Watch

Save Time Parking


Apple approached us with a challenge to design an useful Apple Watch app for parking. We wanted to jump on this opportunity as we knew of some use cases that would make an Apple Watch app compelling for our users. The first generation Apple Watch apps were severely constrained and relied heavily on the iPhone for computing power and any extensive interactions. We knew replicating many functionalities of our iOS app wasn’t feasible. It didn’t make sense to replicate these in a smartwatch form factor. We had to really focus on finding the right use cases to deliver the best SpotHero experience.

UX Strategy & Timeline

Define & Discover

Problem/ Need:

-Apple has directly challenged us to design and develop an Apple Watch app for SpotHero
-Can we figure out a compelling use for an Apple Watch app and optimize for the right use cases?


-Users will be able to book a spot
-users will be able to manage their reservations
-Apple Watch app will be available as another acquisition channel
-Optimize the use cases for the Apple watch app to rebook and access pass through apple wallet

Use Cases: 

-User can rebook past spots. It will remember the same times, if users need to edit they will be prompted to edit in app.
-User needs to be able to add parking pass to Apple Wallet
-User needs to have already purchased a spot once before
-User needs to be directed to iOS app if they want to make changes to a reservation
-Allow users to only access parking pass already purchased
-Keep experience similar to our iOS widget

-First Time iOS SpotHero Users
-Existing iOS SpotHero Users

Definition of Success: 

-CPP for Parking Pass related issues drop XX%
-Tows Volumes are lower than present parking pass
-Users are able to follow redemption methods clearly
-Users are able to edit parking pass
-Users are able to find facility


-Apple Watch 1st generation app (iPhone dependent for processing power).


The biggest hurdle was to identify a compelling use case or two to drive our Apple Watch app to be a useful product.

We first sat down for a kick off meeting to define our objectives, goals and timelines. While the engineering team peeled off to do their own research the product team (PM, CPO, and myself) spent the next day scrutinizing use cases that would make sense to build our product around.

None of us had every designed and developed an Apple Watch app before. Thankfully though, several of owned an Apple Watch, myself included, and we had used it to purchase things through Apple Pay, accessing and scan boarding pass/ movie tickets and so forth. We found this to be a useful feature that people were willing to use their smartwatches for and for us to include accessing and redeeming a parking pass was a no brainer. But what else could we do? Already with the limitation of the 1st generation of Apple Watch apps tethering and having to offload any computing power to the iPhone severely hampered our ability to include functionalities around searching and booking for spots. It made for a poor experience.

There was also another feature many users always wanted that we felt would be easy and quick enough to include in our Apple Watch app. Quick Rebook is what we called it and the idea was to recall the last spot they booked and times and allow the user to one tap purchase that same spot and time. 70% of our users were commuters who parked in the same spot multiple times a week!

Deciding to center our app experience around these critical use cases we felt confident we’d be able to create a solid V1 of our app.

Now it was time to obsessively pour over the HIG documentation and WWDC videos to piece together how Apple Watch apps behaved and worked and we eventually designed our first prototype.

Ideate & Design

Field Test

With our first prototype in hand, we took it out for a spin. Really quickly we realized a few flaws in our design.

  1. The background images on the watch screen unnecessarily wasted battery power. Switching to a black background would be more ideal
  2. In order to scan our parking pass in some of the garage machines, a certain set of yoga skills was required to be able to twist your wrist and arm to line up the barcode to the scanner. That wasn’t the only problem as a feature of the Apple Watch was to turn off the screen if it wasn’t facing upward. This posed as a huge problem for us as ultimately defeated the purpose of having parking passes accessible via the Apple Watch.

The watch screen turning could have been a show stopper except we decided to utilize the Apple Wallet exclusively for Parking Passes and abandon having a parking pass in our Apple Watch app. The wallet automatically brightens the screen all the way and also keeps the screen on for a certain amount of time no matter the position.


Going to Market

We knew going into this that Apple Watch wasn’t going to be a significant source of user acquisition and to be honest it was a chance to work with Apple and work on a fun project. We launched the Apple Watch app and a few weeks later the marketing team began to market it. At its peak we had 19,993 unique users using it in the month of July 2017. That was 3 months from its launch. However that number has since dropped significantly because WatchOS began encouraging more stand along apps that didn’t need to rely on the iPhone. Our experience was outdated and very limiting. With no resources and a place in the roadmap to revisit designing and developing a Apple Watch 2.0, it’s looking like that the downward trend of users will continue for the foreseeable future.

Learnings & Next Steps

The number of unique users using SpotHero’s Apple Watch was pretty encouraging following the launch. We’ve also had several positive feedback from users who took advantage of it. Unfortunately we never got the chance to spend resource and time doing a V2 of the app. As Apple’s Watch grows more stronger and respectable as a standalone device that won’t be tethered to an iPhone, it may be worthwhile for the team to begin looking at revisiting this product. We need to research our users and see how many of them even use Apple Watch and how they use it.