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Android Wear 2.0 Complications are great. It's a shame we can't use them

Despite my penchant for detailed themes with lot of steps, I'm really a girl who likes things to work and work easily. When I got an LG Watch Style and started browsing for watch faces, I was excited to finally have Complications, easily customizable watch face features that can display system statuses like Battery level or pull data from any number of apps, such as currently playing music, your next calendar appointment, or a shortcut to your most-used app. We had seen complications implemented by individual developers before, but they had all worked differently, and I was quite looking forward to things finally working the same across every watch face. I was excited to have the same complications available to all watch faces rather than just the options a developer included in its own.

I soon ran into a problem: Android Wear 2.0 complications have only made the situation worse.

In a perfect world, when Android Wear 2.0 was launched, developers would've switched their interactive data inputs from their own "self-made complications" to the system version. Developers who never bothered with complications before would enable a complications layout for their faces so that users could set what they wanted and be on their way. This was my dream.

It hasn't really happened.

More complex build-your-own-watchface apps, like WatchMaker Premium (opens in new tab) and Watch Face - Minimal & Elegant (opens in new tab), have tried to implement complications to varying degrees of success. On WatchMaker, you can add 2.0 complications to your face, but only on the watch itself, after you've built everything else in the main app on the phone, making it hard to size elements properly in relation to them. On Minimal & Elegant, I tried implementing complications, but they didn't seem to work, so I eventually relented and reverted to their robust, proprietary interactive actions. Other complex watch faces, like tha Phlash's (opens in new tab), haven't implemented 2.0 complications at all yet, still adapting their faces for it.

Then we come to more simple and more artistic watch faces, like Virginia Poltrack's Fat Russell watch faces (opens in new tab) and Glow by Stephanie Carls (opens in new tab). Most of these faces forewent any complications in previous versions of Android Wear, and they've yet to adopt them now. This is a real shame because by offloading extraneous information/functions to Android Wear 2.0's complications, artistic face-makers could spend more time building beautiful watch faces and less time crafting complicated inter-app functions.

Complicated watch faces can be beautiful sometimes

Android Wear 2.0 is still in the process of rolling out to current devices and arriving with new 2.0 devices like the LG Watch Style, Huawei Watch 2 Classic and more watches coming this summer, but we need more faces that take advantage of complications. I'm sure they're coming, but they need to come faster. Well-placed and well-executed complications can elevate a watch face from something beautiful to a functional masterpiece, and asking us to choose between a cute face or an ugly one with complications is a no-win scenario for everyone.

These instructions only work with Google's watch faces

Even more than needing more faces with complications, we need more standardization in how complications are implemented and advertised by watch face apps. Different watch faces use different menus for setting and configuring complications, which can make them hard to find and set on some watch faces. The steps above, for instance, don't match how WatchMaker or most third-party apps set complications. In addition, searching for "watch face complications" (opens in new tab) on Google Play doesn't turn up many useful results apart from a handful of relatively boring watch faces from a handful of devs, in part because watch faces were using the term complications before the official function came in Wear 2.0.

Complication menus are complicated

Complications on Android Wear are just really complicated right now, and they need to be uncomplicated.

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.

36 Comments
  • Complications or Compilations? I don't own an Android watch but this article made no sense. I guess I'm supposed to know what a Complication is in Android Wear.
  • A complication is anything on a watch other than the time. Sun and moon, date, chronograph, tourbillon, etc. It applies to any watch, not specifically Android Wear.
  • Complications are designated areas of a watchface that can be customized to show different kinds of data, like step counts, weather, etc. In the past, these have always been developer added customizations but AW2 is supposed to allow it at the OS level to make it easier. However, most watches still don't have AW2 (unexpected bugs) the developers have been doing their best to make their customizations like and act as much like AW2 Complications as possible to make the transition easier on the user once they get the OS upgrade. We're in a transition period right now and that's driving the gripe (legitimate) of the article.
  • @mn1225 and @BigDinCA Thank you. That really explains things. But it seems like they should just call it what it really is "widgets."
  • Complications are what those bits are called on a "real" watch so they're going with the existing term I guess.
  • Wear 2.0 complications are functionally the same thing as widgets on your Android phone. Live data, independent from the launcher on a phone or the face on a watch, and it's up to you to use them if you want them. So far as I know, they're called that because that's what Apple called them. Standardizing them further as the article suggests would just make them more Apple-like. The same stuff can be easily embedded in a watch face by a developer or user willing and able to use a face-making app. Not everyone can do that or find a face they want, so making them part of Wear 2.0 just lowers the bar for easy entry. Great idea and destined to be popular but it's folly to think that the generic approach is going to replace and exceed what you can embed directly in the face by design, in functionality or appearance. A stock stripchart is not going to fit in to the same circle as a battery widget. Here's the last category, not mentioned - a watch face where you add up to four widgets (oops, complications) from the set the developer included and it is pretty good too. Check out "Watch Face Combo" https://www.androidcentral.com/e?link=https2F2F... I modified a really great face I really liked using its maker app. I have six hotspots to launch my most-used apps so I very rarely need to go to the app drawer (and therefore really do not care about a crown (all of which are digital on digital watches so we don't need to call them with the redundant digital word)), bar graphs for watch and phone battery status used as an artful separation between various display elements, including the text panel with my live weather info. Depending on what you need and want and how to do it, Wear 2.0 is either a godsend breakthrough or no big deal and not worth the hassle to update.
  • Pujie Black (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.pujie.wristwear.pujieb...) allows you to use complications, but as far as I know, you still have to do most of the work on the watch itself.
  • Those are Pujie Blacks own implementation.
  • On the watch you can use both, no? For example, I'm using Google Weather for one of my complications, and I get the temp and current conditions in a circular complication I can press to open the main Google Weather "app".
  • You can use either Pujie's own complications or any external ones. Or even a mixture of both.
  • Tha Phlash's NAVI 2 watchface uses complications and has had them since it was beta tested a couple of months ago. I'm not clear on how you can tell if they are developer added or AW2 but they are there. I have a Zenwatch3 that was supposed to debut with AW2 but like everyone else, I'm in a holding pattern, waiting for the bugs to be worked out.
  • But they're not the system ones, right? When I talked to Phlash he said none of his had them.
  • Thanks for the article Ara, any new info on 2.0 release?
  • I am sure she has some and is just keeping it from everyone cause she rude like that.
  • I only swap secrets for Disney Parks recordings! Because I am a supervillain, (insert maniacal laughter) /sarcasm
  • I have had no problems finding plenty of watch faces that integrate Android Wear 2.0 complications seamlessly. Though I suppose it would be nice if the Play Store made it easier to find watch faces that have been designed for Android Wear 2.0 compatibility.
  • Off topic, but what was your reaction to Project Ara being named after you?
  • It was named after another Ara, but man am I glad it's dead so my mentions in slack don't blow up everything something happens to it.
  • The situation on Samsung's Gear S3 is only marginally better. Most watch faces don't have complications or are poorly done. Samsung's work the best but there are limitations.
  • Google are making android wear .2.0 a joke. How many more delays are there going to be? Still waiting for news for my Huawei watch to get it.
  • 2.0 was delayed because of a bug that was encountered. Would you rather have a buggy 2.0 or wait a little longer to have it?
  • Just flash 2.0 onto your watch. It's not that hard (I'm 14).
  • I've tried a few times to flash the preview but my huawei watch crashed every time
  • I finally received it on my LG Watch Urbane. While I like what AW 2 brings, it is almost unusable because much of it is so slow.
  • Slow? I have a Moto 360 2nd gen that isn't cutting edge and I'm not having any performance issues...
  • It is hard to find a descent watch face that has good complications and doesn't kill the battery. My favorite is Ranger Military watch face on the play store. It looks very nice and has a lot of customization options and supports complications. Now for my rant...I'm having the hardest time finding a good Android Wear watch. By good I mean, water proof, changeable straps, heart rate sensor and GPS. Why in the world can't a company make me something like this. I have the LG Style and it looks very nice, especially with the black steel link Huawei watch band. But it's not water proof and doesn't have a heart rate sensor. I just got the LG Sport and it looks good, but its not really waterproof and you can't change the straps...I'm going crazy here!! I thought that the new Casio was going to be for me, with the 100m waterproofness... guess what, no heart rate sensor. I think we are being trolled. The Garmin Fénix looks nice, but it's not Android Wear. I'm at my wit's end. Rant over
  • Why do people keep asking for heart rate monitors. They're pointless unless they're good. And usually they're not good.
  • i'm SO very much looking forward to getting AW2.0 on my Huawei watch for all of 2.0's new functionality/look/options, but at the same time, i SO fear it for those same reasons. (I don't want to lose things i really like with AW1.x today, and end up with new stuff in AW2.x that's broken or half-baked.)
  • You can't find complications on the play store for the same reason you can't find anything there.
  • Complications are services provided by regular apps like weather, travel and fitness tracker apps that you use on your phone. They are not something you download independently. There are a lot of apps that provide Android Wear 2.0 complications. I was surprised to see how many I already had available from my installed apps when I got LG Watch Sport. I have no control plaints about complications at all.
  • There is no advanced search that allows me to for example:
    filter in: apps with complications
    filter out: already installed on this phone apps
  • Google Play search is totally unfriendly. Filters are not available while they are there, because some links include them. It displays hits totally irrelevant to what I'm searching for.
    I'm always surprised how company which makes the best search engine on the planet did also the worst one in Google Play. It looks like Random Search Generator, not a search engine.
    You cannot filter only OSS software. You cannot filter out demos and apps with in-app-purchase. You cannot sort! What a useless crap of software...
    And, if you browse in other language, you cannot see comments from other countries (especially English). It's the best example how to create unfriendly software.
  • I can't use complications because my watch hasn't been updated to 2.0! What a laughably bad roll-out!
  • Meh... Complications, which I still have no idea why they call it something that stupid, is not even on my list of the three to five things that AW 2.0 isn't screwing up. It's fascinating, but mostly irrelevant.
  • Ultimate Watch 2 has support for up to 8 different dials with different complications, as well as "long text complications" and background complications: https://www.androidcentral.com/e?link=https2F2F...
  • Hi need help badly before I hit zen watch 2 off wall I'm getting no notifications battery awful charging three times a day iv a samsung s7 phone is their a other app besides Android wear that can be used?