It’s not time yet for custom Android Wear watch faces (but Google has an API on the way)

by tech on July 17, 2014

No, the included watch faces on Android Wear smartwatches won’t be the only ones you can choose from. You’ll eventually be able to download new ones from the Play Store, but Google isn’t quite ready for that yet. In a Google+ post on Thursday, Wayne Piekarski, a Senior Developer Advocate at Google, said the company is working on a API developers can use to create watch faces.

Of course — and and somewhat typical for many early Google products — developers aren’t waiting for the API. Earlier this week we saw a Star Trek themed Android Wear watch face, for example, and that’s not the only one available.

Star Trek LCARS Android Wear


It’s not yet time for these, says Piekarski.

“As we work on finalizing the API, we would suggest not posting your apps publicly to Google Play until there is a stable, published API (we’d suggest using Alpha or Beta channels, available through the Play Developer Console, in the meantime). These changes mentioned above are coming soon and will make it easier for you to create great watch faces, but the existing unpublished API may not be compatible with the next Android Wear release, and no one wants to disrupt the experience for users in the future.”

The suggestion makes sense but I suspect it will on some deaf ears. One of the more attractive features of Android is how customizable it is and how much you can tinker with it. We saw the same situation when Google’s Chromecast launched: Apps to extend the functionality of the streaming stick quickly appeared in the Play Store using an early version of the SDK. As Google changed the SDK, these apps lost functionality or were simply broken.

For now, I anticipate more Android Wear watch faces to appear in the Play Store, even if that’s not what Google desires. Developers won’t likely want to wait on the official API, which may not appear until the Android L release later this year, just to create official Android Wear watch faces. At that point, I’d expect — or at least hope) developers retool their watch faces with the official API to be fully optimized for the Android Wear user interface and for battery life.

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