Android Wear LCARS

Google's wearable OS also will shift over to the L release once ready

It was sort of a surprise — and a bit of a disappointment, to be perfectly honest — when Android Wear launched without a properly supported way to add custom watch faces to the likes of the LG G Watch, Samsung Gear Live and, eventually, the Moto 360. We've talked a little bit about how custom watch faces were coming, however, and indeed they have — as standalone apps. But that obviously was a workaround, as there's no real API available for custom watch faces.

Overnight, Wayne Piekarski, a senior developer advocate at Google, explained what's up with custom watch faces on Android Wear. The short version is that, no, there's not an official API yet, and watch faces are a little complicated because of the way they interact with the card stream and are contained inside another process. An API is coming, however, and we should see it along with the L release later this year.

And, yes, that (unsurprisingly) means Android Wear will be running L.

Writes Piekarski:

Custom watch faces are activities running inside another process. However, they have some special considerations due to interactions with the stream and always-on ambient mode--including using a shorter peek card, moving the status indicators for battery and mute, and rendering the faces differently in ambient mode. Right now, without an official API, making a really great watch face currently takes a fair bit of tweaking.

We are working to make this as simple as possible for you so that it's easy to make good-looking faces that work well across multiple form factors, conserve battery, and display the user's card stream nicely. Some of these changes won't be ready until we migrate Android Wear to the Android L release later this year, but don't fret: they're coming!

Piekarski recommends that developers not just publish standalone watch faces to Google Play wholesale, but instead to use the beta and alpha channels, and that watch faces cobbled together today might well not work once Android Wear shifts to L.

You can read Piekarski's full post here.


Reader comments

Official Android Wear watch face API coming later this year


perhaps you should read an Android Wear primer on this site or Connectedly. This post isn't about the benefits of using a smartwatch.

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Just because you don't get the need, doesn't mean there isn't one there ;-)

Do you always have your phone in your hand when you just want to do a quick and simple task? With a watch it can be somewhere around you in your apartment/house, in your jacket, in a backpack, in a handbag or somewhere else. It "can" make quite a difference if you have to hold your phone in the hand or if it can be in a limited range around you.
This won't be something for everyone, but for many people it can make quite a difference.

and on the 8th day.... i started to fall outta love with my G watch.
Don't get me wrong, i still would pick the G watch, but after a week it became the 2-5 notifications i get daily
the Wrist control of music/podcast
second screen
and a quick reply to text and emails.( long sentences confuse it)
Yea, i put my shopping list on it so i don't have to pull out my phone, but are all these uses needed, ?

After a few miss typed emails to my boss that had to be corrected with the old fashion type the correct verbage , the luster was gone.

For me, it is much easier to quickly glance at my wrist to see notifications. Especially on the move. How many times a day do you have to pull phone out of your pocket, turn it on, look to see a notification you don't want to respond to now, turn phone off, then put back into your pocket? You could just look at your wrist and go about your day. That it worth it for me. I don't care about special apps on the watch.

Exactly.... I'm to busy to pull out out the phone all the time.. Nice to quick glance at the wrist and see if it's important... After using it for a couple weeks. .don't know what I'd do without it

Well, just because you don't get something doesn't mean there is no need.

I for one got the LG G Watch Tuesday. I've been using it for two days. Where I work, I can't always have my phone on me. This means I miss a number of important calls or reply late to text messages because I'm in meetings or running around the office doing this or that. The same applies when I'm on the road in the company vehicle, phone is in my pocket and I've got the radio blaring.

Thanks to my watch though, I never miss any incoming notifications now. If I'm in a meeting I can see who is calling or texting and if it's really important I can excuse myself and run and grab my phone to answer the call or just duck out real quick, send a voice reply/text from my watch and then duck back in. For me this is the big advantage of a smart watch. Add to that the fact that since I do all that now from the watch I now check my phone less and that's resulted in some major battery savings on it (my phone that is). I made it to about 1:30 PM yesterday with 77% battery life left on my phone, I'm a power/heavy user. I can have my phone down to 30% like nothing before noon rolls around, so that's a pretty big deal for me as well.

But to each their own. I for one find a number of things as "I don't get the need for that" but I am smart enough to realize that just because I don't see the need or just because it isn't for me doesn't mean there isn't one or that others won't have a need for it.

yeah, you try pulling a Note 2, in an otterbox, out of your front pocket, just once while wearing jeans and you'll know my pain...

understand you shall.

Haha. I already want a smart watch and seeing the star trek theme just makes me want one even more.

Posted via Android Central App

Custom watch faces are going to be awesome! I hope the prices are quite low, like 50 cents or so.
Posted via a beautiful Ebony backed Moto X on Verizon or the amazing Nexus 10 using the Android Central App

Phil thanks for the info. I can hardly wait to adapt some of my ARTware wallpaper clocks to Android Wear, but it makes sense to do it with the official API to not affect running apps on the watch and have a clear upgrade path. A badly written clock face app could mess things up a lot (performance and battery use)

Google said from the start, that custom watch faces would not be available at launch, but would come later. Yet another example of how waiting for a later device like the Moto 360 will give you a better experience.

All Android Wear devices will receive the functionality, absolutely. My point was the Android Wear experience will be much better at the LAUNCH of the Moto 360, and shortly thereafter, than it was at the LAUNCH of the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live.

Umm, no. L won't come out before the end of the year AFAIK, 360 should be out in a month... There have been some Wear updates but they mostly addressed minor bugs. I'm waiting for the 360 with bated breath too, but outside of wireless charging and any other surprises on Moto's part I don't think the experience will be particularly different.

I'm jumping into Android Wear fully aware that it's a first gen platform with some issues to work out, but since I'm not upgrading my phone nor my tablet this year (N5/N7) I'm fine with splurging a bit on a watch. Definitely more of a luxury than a need tho. For the foreseeable future, I gather the average consumer would rather spend the same kinda money on a tablet.

I'm fully aware of the time frame that new Android letter releases are released, that is why I stated: "Android Wear experience will be much better at the LAUNCH of the Moto 360, AND SHORTLY THERAFTER." Android L WILL be released closer after the Moto 360 launch than it will be after the LG/Samsung launch. Additionally, that is not the ONLY thing I was addressing. There will continue to be more updates and apps and features added to the ecosystem before and by and shortly thereafter the Moto 360 launch. There is NO debate that the Android Wear experience will be more curated and robust by summer's end, when the 360 is released, than it was when the LG and Samsung items came to market with few apps, and bugs.

I am gonna make a bold prediction, right now, though, and say that one area that the Moto 360 WILL be particularly different, other than wireless charging, is battery life. I'm calling it: far superior battery to the G Watch and Gear Live.

Your point? You win some, you lose some. It was just THAT....a BOLD PREDICTION. Months later, the battery is not phenomenally better, but it gets me through my day, and I still prefer it far more than any other smartwatch available.

Well yeah, the platform is going to improve, that's a given. Just the way you worded it seems... strange. It's like saying people shouldn't buy an LG G3 until Android L is released for it, because L will provide a better experience. While true, the people who purchase one now will be able to just update their phones and get the same improved experience. And they were able to use a perfectly fine phone up to that point.

Not the same thing, because Android, as it is now, is not lacking. Android Kit Kat is a seasoned, fully developed, OS, with the largest app ecosystem. Android Wear, as debuted on the G Watch and Galaxy Live, was a brand new os, with bugs, quirks and limited apps and functionality. A better analogy would be, for someone to have held off on buying the HTC G1, if they knew the OG Motorola Droid was coming out.

I understand your analogy, but don't feel it applies here. With the exception of a circular screen and possible qi charging, we've seen nothing that would lead us to believe the Moto 360 will provide a different user experience than the 2 current watches. Everything that will be available when the 360 is released, will also be available for the Live and G Watch. Same firmware, same number of apps, probably the same processor and memory. The difference is, people who buy now (as I did) get to use the device now.
I'm not disappointed at all in my purchase. Sure, there are a few features missing from what was shown in the promotional videos (namely, saying "reply" to reply to a new sms/email, instead of having to swipe over and tap a reply button). But overall I'm quite happy with it. I've not experienced any more bugs with it than I have with any other android device. The level of features is perfect (I don't want to use my watch as a speakerphone, or as a low-res camera). And just as we all look forward to new versions of Android coming to our phones, I'm excited to see how Android Wear improves, and how third party apps add even more functionality.

So will these watch faces automatically work with watches with round faces like the 360? Or will separate versions have to be made by the face developers?

Posted via Android Central App

I'm sure the API will make it easier to create watch faces for both, tho I imagine some/many will always require unique artwork for round vs square.

Wow. So they really did rush this to the market. Its a watch people. That is the app a lot if people are going to be interested in.

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Thanks for posting this, Phil. I just actually found some help on how to develop standalone watch faces. Was going to get started, but it'll be better to wait.

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How can Google have tens of thousands of employees, billions of dollars and take this long to come out with this thing as undeveloped as it is. Much less to release a watch OS without the ability to change and design awesome watch faces is just asinine at best. Who the hell do they have designing and testing these things....

Testers are currently the people doling out hundreds of dollars for these things. You'd think they would at least do it like the Nexus program and at least offer cheaper devices to run they're new buggy half-assed software.

Other smartwatches that were released without the ability to add custom watch faces:

Sony Smartwatch and Smartwatch 2
Qualcomm Toq
Motorola Motoactv (not confirmed, but none of the early reviews I found mention custom watch faces)
Samsung Galaxy Gear

But yeah, damn Google for not having custom watchfaces available right away!

An aesthetic feature taking a back seat is not exactly unheard of. Jobs is a perfectionist and Apple has thousands of devs yet they still launched a smartphone without MMS or copy/paste (and many dumb phones had at least one of those, if not both).

Frankly I don't see what the big deal is... If you're even remotely interested in a smart watch while the market is in it's infancy then it's more than likely because of the functionality, not the ability to add a Sailor Moon or Waking Dead watch face.

Learn what? Can you name a smartwatch that had customizable watch faces on the day it was released? Because I sure wasn't able to find one.

Uh, why don't these articles show up on connectedly? I don't understand what the point of doing all this site integration stuff was if smartwatch articles are going to show up on AC and NOT connectedly?!?