Android Developer Blog: What’s New with Wear

Posted by Simon Earnshaw, Group Product Manager

WearOS Image

We’re announcing our biggest update to date on the Wear platform, with new features, APIs, and tools to help developers create beautiful, high-quality wearable experiences. In this blog post, we highlight how we make it easy to build great apps for Wear, and how you can start working with drafts of these APIs and tools to prepare your app for the new platform.

First of all: the tools

The first thing you’ll want to do is download and install Android Studio Arctic Fox beta, which includes a developer preview of the new Wear system image as well as improved tools for developing and testing Wear apps without a device:

  • Emulator with new Wear system image (preview) – A developer preview of the new Wear system image is now available so you can use and play with the latest platform updates!
  • Bring the app to the phone – We’ve made it much easier to pair Wear emulators with your phone right from Android Studio, so you can stay in the IDE to develop, test, and iterate. The new pairing assistant guides you step by step in pairing Wear emulators with physical or virtual phones directly in Android Studio! You can start by going to Device drop-down list> Wear OS emulator pairing wizard. Note that it will currently be paired with the Wear OS 2 companion and a Wear companion for the new version will be arriving soon. Learn more.
  • Virtual heart rate sensor – The emulator now has a virtual heart rate sensor, including support for the Heart Rate Sensor API, to help you build and test apps that respond differently to activity levels. Make sure you are running at least Android Emulator v30.4.5 downloaded through Android Studio SDK Manager.

    New virtual heart rate sensor in Wear emulator allows you to adjust virtual heart rate with a slider bar

We also announced a new Samsung-designed watch face design tool. This new tool will facilitate the development of watch faces for all devices running Wear, and will be available soon.

New developer documentation and design tips

In preparation for the new version of Wear, we have completely redesigned our developer site with new API documentation, learning paths, programming workshops and examples. And as Wear will soon be offering a whole new customer experience based on the latest in Material Design, we’ve updated our design guidelines to cover the new design system, UI components, UX models, and styles. Learn more.

New Jetpack APIs

From the new Jetpack APIs designed for small screens (round or square) and designed to maximize battery life to the Jetpack Tiles API, we’re adding a number of new features to help you create great Wear experiences. , reduce master code, and write code that works consistently across all versions and devices of Wear:

  • Floor tile – Tiles give users quick and predictable access to the information and actions they rely on most. We have now opened Tiles for developers, and we have already worked with several Early Access partners to add Tiles to their applications. Here are a few to come:

New tiles in development from Adidas, Sleep Cycle, Hole 19, Outdooractive, Calm, Flo and Golfpad

The Tiles API is alpha and supported on devices running Wear OS 2 and later, so you can create Tiles for all devices in the Wear ecosystem. Tiles will start appearing on consumer watches with the new platform update. Learn more

  • Change of task and current activities – The new version of Wear allows users to easily switch between apps. With a minimal amount of code, you can use the new Running Activities API to allow your users to return to your app after they walk away (to start another task such as playing music) by tapping on an activity indicator icon at the bottom of the watch face, by double-pressing the side button, or via the Recent section of the global app launcher. The API for current activities is now in alpha version. Learn more.

3 new ways for users to switch between apps: activity indicator on the watch face;  double press the side button of the watch;  the global application launcher

  • Health services – We also announced today the launch of a health and fitness platform, created in collaboration with Samsung. This platform provides fitness and health data generated from sensors, contextual algorithms, and all-day health monitoring. You can use APIs to create powerful, high-quality fitness and health experiences for wearable devices with a simpler development experience. The platform handles all the work to manage your hardware and sensors for you, eliminating one of the biggest challenges of managing yourself – knowing when to stop work so the battery doesn’t drain. The alpha of this health services platform is available today. Learn more.
  • Other new APIs – We’ve released several other new APIs in Jetpack to make wearable app development easier, including support for curved text, typing, watch faces, complications, and remote interactions. You can learn more about these APIs here.

Google Play Store changes

We know that user engagement and app discovery is an important part of growing your business. Therefore, important updates coming to Google Play soon will make it easier for users to discover great app experiences on the watch, including using search to easily find apps for the watch, check out the Wear category for app recommendations and install apps on the watch directly from the phone.

Learn more

We are excited about the next generation of Wear. To learn more about developing smartwatch apps, see We can’t wait to see what you build!

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