At present, Android has a much larger market share than iOS, Windows Mobile, and Blackberry. Many analysts believe that the worldwide smartphone operating system of Android will increase to 90% by 2018. But several studies show that the wearable technology market has been growing steadily and consistently. According to a recent press release by International Data Corporation (IDC), “The worldwide wearables market reached a new all-time high as shipments reached 33.9 million units in the fourth quarter of 2016 (4Q16), growing 16.9% year over year. Shipments for the entire year grew 25% as new vendors entered the market and previous champions refreshed their product lineups. The year came to a close with 102.4 million devices shipped.” That is why; it becomes essential for Android app developers to make their apps available on wearable devices. It is also important for the mobile app developers to understand all important aspects of Android wearables.

Important Aspects of Android Wearables Each Android App Developer Must Learn

Android Wear

Google as designed Android Wear as the operating system for smartwatches and other wearable devices. The distinct version of Android mobile operating systems runs directly on wearable devices. It further enables users to connect their wearable devices to Android smartphones and tablets. The developers can use Android Wear to create apps that run directly on wearable devices, while accessing native hardware features like sensors and GPU. Google has released Android Wear 2.0 with features that allow developers to build apps that users can access without using their smartphones or tablets.

Wearable User Experience

Android Wear comes with features to extend Android mobile platform to a variety of wearable devices. But Google has developed Android Wear by focusing extensively on wearable user experience. The users can accomplish common tasks like making a call, sending a text message, and gathering information simply by saying “OK Google”. Likewise, they can get actionable information simply by checking the notifications synchronized with the phone. The developers can even create apps that access hardware features and sensors directly from the wearable devices. The developers have to focus on the user experience while building apps for the next generation devices.

Android Wear APIs

While developing apps for wearables, the developers have option to avail a variety of application programming interfaces (APIs) from Google Play Services and Android Support Library. These APIs help developers to accomplish common tasks like making the app handle voice commands, synchronizing phone notifications to wearables, and exchange data between What should Android wearables and mobile devices. Also, the APIs help programmers to enhance wearable user experience by activities, sensors, and services with Android SDK. The developers use APIs to make the Android wearables to communicate with devices powered by Android 4.3 or later.

Design Principles

Google recommends developers to keep in mind a set of design principles while developing apps for wearable devices. While developing a wearable app, the developers must keep in mind some of the major limitations of these devices – smaller screen space, limited battery life, and less information density. They must create user interfaces (UIs) that enable users to access information and perform tasks instantaneously. Likewise, the developers must prioritize the app features, and include only the critical functionality. They can even consider testing the app on round displays as most wearable devices are designed with round displays.

Types of User Interaction

Android Wear allows users to interact with their wearables in four distinct ways – notifications, voice commands, native apps, and watch faces. The developers must take advantage of these interaction types while developing apps forAndroid wearables. They can use notification to deliver contextual information to users or use native Android apps to deliver on-demand user experience. Likewise, they can use watch faces to deliver relevant and timely data. However, it is also important for the developers to ensure that the app is responding to the voice commands of users promptly. The developers must test the app to check if interacts with the users seamlessly.

Vertical Layout

While developing an Android app, developers often include both horizontal and vertical scrolling options. But the layout of wearable devices is completely different from layout of mobile devices. The developers must design the wearable apps with vertical layouts. The vertical layout will make it easier for users to access content by scrolling in a single direction. Also, the developers must avoid including both horizontal and vertical scrolling options avoid making users confused.

Content Containers

Android Wear allows app developers to choose from a variety of content containers according to their precise needs. A developer can opt for a content container which is designed as a collection of items of either variable height or equal height. Likewise, they can choose containers with greater height or width than the viewport or content pages that covers full dimensions of the screen. But the developer must remember that the content container may not meet varying screen sizes of wearable. They must test the content containers to present the content both clearly and unambiguously.

Action Buttons

While designing apps for Android wearables, the developers have to use both primary and inline action buttons. The primary action buttons will be used by wearable device users to accomplish common tasks like composing or reading an email message. The developers have option to design primary actions buttons without text labels. On the other hand, the inline action buttons must appear within the content area of the screen. The users have to click on an inline action button to perform specific activities like sharing content on social media platforms.

On the whole, existing app developers have to put extra time and effort to build apps for Android Wear. While developing apps for Android Wear, they have to keep in mind major shortcomings of the wearable devices – smaller screen space, limited battery life, and less information density. Also, they have to test the apps thoroughly to assess their wearable user experience. But the Android app developers must build apps for Android Wear to take advantage of the rapidly growing wearable technology market.