Android Wear Gets Updates, New Watch Face API for Developers

Android Wear offers new electronic watch faces, which can be downloaded from Google Play. The Android Wear app gets performance and feature updates also.

Android Wear Apps

Google has updated its Android Wear app to add new features for users, while also releasing a new watch Face API that allows developers to create new electronic watch faces for Android Wear devices.

The new capabilities were unveiled by David Singleton, director of engineering for Android Wear, in a Dec. 10 post on the Google Official Blog. The updates give Android Wear users wider choices in setting up their devices to fit their personalities and style choices, wrote Singleton.

"Today there's even more ways to show your style with Android Wear, including dozens of new watch faces (powered by an official Watch Face API), a full collection of devices on Google Play, and lots of other improvements based on your feedback," he wrote.

One of the big changes is that Android Wear users can now download watch faces from Google Play, just like they do with apps, according to Singleton. "We've got dozens of examples to get you started—from the unpredictable Minions in 'Despicable Me' to the X-Ray artistry of Hugh Turvey. And because the new Watch Face API is available to all developers, you can expect even more choices in the weeks and months ahead."

The new Android Wear smartphone app updates, which are rolling out over the next week, improve the user experience for browsing, downloading and switching watch faces, he wrote. "So pick the one you like the best, or pick a new one every day."

So far, six different watches in a variety of round, square, traditional or modern styles are available to consumers in the Android Wear collection, Singleton wrote. Included are the Asus ZenWatch, the LG G Watch, the LG G Watch R, the Moto 360, the Samsung Gear Live and the Sony SmartWatch 3.

The new Watch Face API provides tools for developers to customize the very visible watch face of the Android Wear devices, according to a related Dec. 10 post on the Android Developers Blog. "Watch faces have been the most requested feature from users and developers alike, and we can't wait to see what [developers] build for them," wrote Wayne Piekarski, a Google developer advocate.

The API comes complete with instructions for developers about getting started with designing watch faces, as well as joining in on training classes, wrote Piekarski.

The new Android Wear app, which is based on Android 5.0, will allow users to manage and configure watch faces on their phone as well as install watch faces from Google Play, he added. Any handheld device running Android 4.3 or later will continue to work with all Android Wear devices.

Developers should transition their existing watch face designs to the new API by Jan. 31, 2015, when support will be dropped for watch faces that don't use the new API, wrote Piekarski.

The most recent previous Android Wear update came in October, providing two key new features that made it even more important as a wearables software platform—support for in-device GPS sensors and the ability to store music so users can listen right from their devices, according to an earlier eWEEK report.

Android Wear was launched by Google in March to help expand the world of wearable computing devices for consumers. The first step was introducing developer tools to encourage the development of smartwatches. The idea of wearables, according to Google, is that they understand the context of the world around their wearers and can interact with their users simply and efficiently with just a glance or a spoken word.