Simple guidelines for a great android wear app


Even-though Google were the front runners in the wearable watch space – there were no much updates on the Android Wear OS in recent years. Many statistics show that Apple’s Watch OS running on a very limited hardware dominates the smart watch with more than 80% of market share. It was a big question for many of the developers on when Google will come out with a major re-branding on Android Wear. The WAIT IS OVER. Google have finally launched the much anticipated 2.0 on Feb 2017.

Quick glance on the new Android Wear 2.0 features – 

  1. Stand alone apps that runs just on watch
  2. Google play store on watch
  3. Cellular support
  4. Android pay
  5. More focus towards circular user interface
  6. Enhanced material design
  7. Google assistant

Many of the old watches released by LG, Moto, Huawei, etc. are getting upgraded to Android Wear 2.0 with most features supported by the existing hardware. Also many new android wear 2.0 smartwatches are geared up to hit the stores in the coming months.

If you have not tried developing android wear app before, now the time seems to be right to develop one.

Here are some of the simple things that would make your app even better.

Simple intuitive design –

A simple UI and a greater UX is the key for a great app –

UI – User Interface for wearable is not the same as User Interface of Mobile. UI varies by the mode of development of the wearable.

  1. Mobile app available – While the mobile app is already available – We should be really careful that we don’t port all the screens to wearable too. Here the wearable app mostly is an extension of the mobile app. Make sure only the most needed screens and the notifications are carried to wearable app.
  2. Mobile app NOT available – While building a stand alone app, pick the right use cases to be done through wearable. In a complex scenarios where more interactions are needed by user to fulfill any flow – redirect the user either to Mobile app Or Websites.

UX – User experience is so crucial in wearable app. Gestures form the most crucial part of navigation. Avoid user inputs through soft-keypad as much as possible. User should be provided to pick from list or even use voice control rather than keypad. In some unavoidable circumstances provide the user with scribble pad rather than keypad.

Also, understand Gestures are different from animations. State transitions between 2 screens should be direct.

Currently, Android Wear provides support for 3 different watch shape. I would strongly recommend to start with designing for round shape.

Needed data sync –

Any mobile app, in most cases will depend on some Content Management System (CMS) for needed data during initial launch. Strictly try to avoid CMS backed app for wearable applications. This will increase the load/launch time of the app. The needed data can be pulled by the wearables or pushed by the mobile apps when needed.

Relying on REST calls for data can be treated in 2 different scenarios –

  1. Mobile app available – Utilize most of the data from mobile app itself. Check whether the needed data is already available as part of mobile app else use REST based calls
  2. Mobile app NOT available – When the app is stand alone in wearable/the mobile app couldn’t be reached for some reason, utilize the  REST based calls. Work with your server team to design a much lighter REST calls for Wearable apps.

Enhanced security –

Secured applications will always have 3 different tokens to communicate with the server – 1) Anonymous Token – 2) Refresh Token – 3) Access Token.

Look at the below diagram that differentiates on how this keys can be used in different implementation models –


Powered by analytics – 

  1. Make use of the existing analytic data of mobile app to derive the key use cases for wear app
  2. Include analytics to wear app to understand the user expectations and behavior

Modes of interaction –

  1. Notifications – Contextual data – Entry to the app just on tapping the notification. Default notification templates are available.
  2. Watch faces – With the use of Complications – installed apps may show data in watch face. Again tapping on the watch face can open the associated native app related to the complications.
  3. Voice commands – This enables hands-free interactions with the wear app. This can trigger specific actions on installed apps.

Myths demystified –

Every feature of the mobile app need not be ported as a wearable app. Remember we are developing an app for the smallest screen available.

Small screens first approach

Finally – not every-time a mobile app is updated with new requirement the wear app has to be updated and released to the play store. Make the Wear app much simpler as possible.

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