Jewish app ready for service on Apple Watch’s first day
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Jewish app ready for service on Apple Watch’s first day

Hayom gives wearers of Apple’s newest hit device data on prayer times, the Hebrew date, and Chabad-oriented words of wisdom

The Apple Watch introduced on stage at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California, on Tuesday, September 9, 2014 (screen capture: YouTube video)
The Apple Watch introduced on stage at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California, on Tuesday, September 9, 2014 (screen capture: YouTube video)

Just in time for the Apple Watch’s debut, a Jewish-oriented app called Hayom (“today” in Hebrew) is ready for early adopters, with information on Sabbath candle lighting and Torah readings, the proper times for prayers, and even quotes from Jewish literature and tidbits on Jewish history that flash at various times of the day.

Users who are fans of the worldview of Chabad, the international organization that runs educational programs for Jews around the world through its chain of Chabad Houses, will especially appreciate the app, because Hayom’s spiritual lineage shows up clearly in the app’s content.

The app was created by the software house of the Hassidic group.

Last Friday marked the first day the new Apple Watch was available. By Apple standards, it was a low-key event; there were no scenes of mobbed Apple Stores, because all the available inventory (except for the $10,000 gold edition) was sold out the first day orders were taken, on April 10. The watches are now backordered through at least June, and according to ABI Research, which specializes in studying the smart device market, Apple can expect to sell about 13 million Watches in 2015 – making it the fastest selling product in Apple’s history.

With a million people set to get their watches in the coming days, app makers have been scrambling to get their products out, hoping to hook customers and enroll them in their ecosystem. But app makers had a big problem as Apple did not distribute any prototypes or test models before the launch, so they had to make do with Apple’s instructions on how the device would work. Seeing is believing, and what looks good on paper doesn’t always work in the field – and according to many reviews of apps that have appeared online since Friday, that tension shows up in many of the apps that are available.

It stands to reason, though, that apps will improve now that the Watch is publicly available, so app makers who can get their products up to speed are likely to catch a large group of users. As of now, Hayom is the only Jewish-oriented app available for the Watch, so Chabad, which is sponsoring the app, has a good chance of expose large numbers of people to its message.

The app is free, and it’s not just for Watches. There are Apple iPhone and Android versions as well, and Watch buyers who want to use the app will have to install the app on their iPhones as well, as the Watch app gets its information from the iPhone app (most Watch apps work like this). The Watch app can notify users of prayer times, Sabbath candle lighting times, the Hebrew date, locations of nearby synagogues, and tidbits of Jewish wisdom consisting of inspirational quotes from Jewish sources.

The more complete iPhone and Android apps also include videos, longer articles, a Jewish history corner, and listings of the appropriate texts to study, based on traditional learning schedules such as Daf Hayomi (the daily page of Talmud studied around the world on each particular day).

Also active in the Jewish app market is RustyBrick, which has several Watch apps under development. The company is developing and adapting (from their iPhone versions) several apps, including a version of its Zmanim app, which provides the proper times for daily prayers, when the Sabbath begins/ends, alerts on when to break for the afternoon prayer – often a major challenge for those in the business world – and the like. Besides Zmanim, RustyBrick is adapting its Brachos app – which provides the text of blessings on food (bread, fruit, beverages, etc.) as well as the Grace After Meals (Birkat Hamazon).

In addition, the company will be releasing a Watch version of its Kosher app, which provides information on locations of the nearest kosher restaurants, directions on how to get there, who the supervising rabbis are, etc.

In a recent interview, RustyBrick CEO Barry Schwartz said that the company preferred to wait until it got an Apple Watch before releasing any apps. RustyBrick, he said, expects to get a lot more customers for its apps. “Even in its sixth iteration – when everyone who wants one already has one – the demand for iPhones sets records each time a new one comes out, so you can imagine what is going to happen when the Apple Watch goes on sale. There will be an unprecedented demand.”

According to Dov Dukes, Chabad.org’s lead app developer, Hayom is also one of many Watch apps users can expect to see. “The watch app reveals only some of the strategic planning that went into Chabad.org’s existing ‘Hayom’ app and other products. We’re prepared for the latest developments in technology, including for wearables.”

“The possibilities in app development for Jewish audiences keep expanding,” says Chabad.org’s managing director, Rabbi Meir Simcha Kogan, “and this step into wearable technology—to enable and assist with Jewish education and observance—is another important advance.”

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