Google is upping its wearable game with new design guidelines for Wear OS smartwatch apps. The changes help ensure that the software on the platform has a premium quality and a more unified look and feel.
It’s true that some Wear OS apps currently lack visual polish. But that is expected to change with the new guidelines. The goal is to provide users with a premium experience similar to the Apple Watch. In some ways, this could be interpreted as Google admitting that its apps are inferior in quality to Apple’s watchOS counterparts.
Three main changes
The new directive will enter into force on 31 August 2023. This will give application developers enough time to adapt to the new rules. Three big changes are being made to improve the smartwatch experience.
The first is that all apps and tiles must have a black background. In addition to permanence, this may also have a secondary benefit of slightly extending battery life.
The second change concerns ongoing activities. From the end of August, an activity-in-progress indicator should be displayed on the watch face, and recent apps should be updated with the appropriate app-launcher chip.
Finally, the time of day should be clearly displayed at the top of the app’s home screen, as well as on the ongoing activity screen.
Google’s new guidelines apply to visual experience, functionality, performance, and Google Play data. Their goal is to provide Wear OS users with a unified, intuitive and enjoyable experience. The company’s goal is to improve app quality and discoverability of quality apps in the Wear OS ecosystem by carefully considering app design, optimal functional behavior, and the Google Play experience.
Additionally, all Wear OS apps must target Android 11 (API level 30). Apps targeting lower levels will no longer be discovered by any Google Play user whose device is running a newer Android OS version than the app’s target API level. This is to ensure that apps meet the security and quality standards that users expect from newer versions of Wear OS.
Preparing for Wear OS 4
These modifications may not seem dramatic. However, Google takes them seriously because they will improve the user experience. This is necessary to keep up with Apple and others in the fast-paced world of wearable technology. Especially since newcomers like Xiaomi are expected to enter the fray later this year with a Wear OS watch.
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It is not yet clear whether Wear OS 4 will be released this year or next year. It is very likely that we will not get the interim version until 2023.
Perhaps these changes will set the stage for the next release of Google’s operating system. With the release of the Pixel Watch and the acquisition of Fitbit, Google committed itself to this field. We’re glad to see that the company has moved forward with its operating system.
As for Wear OS 4, it will apparently be based on Android 13. Nothing else is known yet, but you can check out our article detailing what we’d like to see from the next big software update.
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