Building for Android Wear: Depth and Flexibility

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Posted by Timothy Jordan, Developer Advocate

With so many recent updates and improvements to Android Wear, it’s high time to share an updated overview of the platform. We’re certainly not done—there’s a lot more to come—but this is the picture today as you start or continue developing your groundbreaking Android Wear user experiences.

Guns’n'glory Heros and Strava

The Android Wear platform emphasizes depth and flexibility. Built on Android, it allows developers to use familiar APIs to create useful, performant, and imaginative apps that run directly on the watch. In the spirit of Android, you have the freedom to make substantial changes to the user experience, including the creation of custom watch faces. There are three main categories of experiences you can build: apps, custom watch faces, and notifications.

Apps

Apps that are built for Android Wear run directly on the watch and can do nearly anything a phone can, from tracking your run to giving you a little entertainment while waiting for the bus. Some even work without a connection to the phone, such as fitness and music apps. There are libraries to help you move data between the phone and the wearable, as well as create stunning and adaptable UIs. Here’s a list of some of the great features you have access to:


Feature
Documentation
Full screen activities with touch events Creating Custom UIs for Wear Devices
Notifications and custom actions UI Patterns for Android Wear
Custom Watch faces Creating Watch Faces
Layouts for round and square devices Creating Custom UIs for Wear Devices
OpenGL Displaying Graphics with OpenGL ES
Sensors

  • Accelerometer
  • Gyroscope
  • Compass
  • Barometer
  • Heart rate sensor
SensorManager
Haptics Vibrator
Microphone AudioRecord
Voice actions Adding Voice Capabilities
GPS Detecting Location on Android Wear
Offline storing of data / music Transferring Assets
Media playback controls MediaSession, MediaController
Framework based on Android 5.0 API 21 Android 5.0 APIs
Standalone or synchronized apps Sending and Syncing Data


Selected watch faces

Watch Faces

The ability to create custom watch faces gives you direct access to the most prominent UI element on a user’s most personal device. The API is simple enough to build watch faces quickly and flexible enough to allow personalization. Again, given the depth and flexibility of the Android platform, you can create something for the user that’s both beautiful and packed with unique features.

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The development journey starts with the simplicity of bringing your design to the wrist. At the core of the watch face API is the onDraw method that allows you to draw whatever design you can think of to the canvas at a high enough frame rate to deliver fluid animation. This will come through at full fidelity while the watch is in interactive mode.

At other times, when the watch is in ambient mode, you’re able to draw a more discreet version of the watch face. Additional preferences can be set to arrange the system UI elements appropriately for your design. Once those basics are covered, the limits are your imagination! You can go further with additions like the moon phase, current weather, or fitness stats. Watchmakers call these items “complications” — but with Android they’re hardly complicated. Once you have the data, just draw it on the canvas as you did the time.

Glympse and WhatsApp

Notifications

Of course, Android Wear Notifications are the easiest way to get started in the world of wearables. If you’ve got an Android app with notifications — they already work on a Wear watch. If you’ve already enhanced your notification with actions, this is even better and also automatically already works. You can take things further with Wear-specific functionality like Stacks, Pages, and Voice Replies that make your notifications richer experiences on the wrist.

The user experiences you build for Wear get to take advantage of the power and flexibility of the Android platform. It’s easy to get started and possible to create truly groundbreaking UI for your users. Together, we can create an ecosystem of user experiences as diverse as the watches they run on and the people who wear them.

Check out the developer videos and documentation for more, and share your thoughts on the Android Wear Developers community. We can’t wait to see the innovative user experiences you will build on Android Wear.

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+Android Developers


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