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Airbnb's Apple Watch app focuses on putting hosts and guests in touch

Nathan Ingraham
September 3, 2015
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The last year or so has seen Airbnb put a major focus behind design, from its company logo and identity to new apps for phones and tablets. Now, it's putting its attention towards a new platform: wearables. Starting today, the iOS Airbnb app is compatible with the Apple Watch. Fortunately, Airbnb put a lot of thought into what features would make the most sense living on your wrist rather than try and cram the entire experience onto the smallest screen in your life. To that end, the first iteration of Airbnb's Watch app will focus primarily on messaging, so hosts and guests can stay in touch quickly.

Airbnb went through numerous tests of the Watch's capabilities to decide what made the most sense for its app, and told us that enabling hosts quickly respond to booking inquiries and questions was one of the most important things it thought it could do. When you receive a message, you'll get a notification on your watch that you can respond to using your voice or one of the pre-written responses, just like Apple's own messaging app. The coolest thing Airbnb is doing here, however, is that it lets you write your own pre-selected responses. So if you're tired of guests pinging you for your WiFi password, you can set up a response with that info and have it always at the ready for a quick reply. You'll have the same features at your disposal if you're traveling, but we figure that hosts will probably be more likely to benefit from the fast interactions the Watch offers.

Similarly, hosts will have the ability to respond to booking inquiries from their wrists. When an Airbnb user submits their request, you'll see all the details in the notification, including your guest's name, the dates they want to stay and their full message. You can accept right then or send a message back if you're not ready to confirm the booking. On the guest's side, you'll get a notification when your booking request is accepted.

That's about all the app can do, and that's probably for the best. If you open the app without a notification prompting you, you'll just get an overview of your messaging box; you can look at the conversation thread and respond if you're so inclined. Otherwise, it's pretty bare bones -- there's just no reason to use such a tiny screen to do things like search for listings or do more detailed management of your upcoming reservations. That's all stuff better suited to a bigger screen. That said, we feel like the "canned" responses that Airbnb are including in the Watch app could be just as useful in the full-sized iPhone version -- but as of today, that app is unchanged. Hopefully the next update will change that; for now you can go grab the Apple Watch version of Airbnb in the App Store today.

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