Wear OS is based on Android and is optimized for the wrist. Wear OS apps run directly on a watch, giving you access to hardware such as sensors and the GPU. Wearable apps are similar to other apps that use the Android SDK, but differ in design and functionality.
A Wear OS app should work independently of a phone app, allowing users the greatest flexibility in their choice of phones.
The default recommendation is for a Wear OS app to work independently of a phone so users can complete tasks on a watch, without access to an Android or iOS phone.
It is possible to mark your Wear OS app as dependent on an Android phone with a partner Android app, but it isn't recommended. Not only does it mean your app won't work when paired with an iOS device but your app won't qualify for promotion on the Google Play Store.
Principles of Wear OS development
Wear OS is based on Android, so many of the best practices for Android also apply to Wear OS. However, Wear OS is optimized for the wrist, so there are some differences between the two.
Design for critical tasks -
Focus on one or two needs of your target users rather than a full app experience. Don't migrate an entire mobile codebase and put a Wear OS user interface on top. Instead, find critical tasks that work well on the wrist and streamline the experience on Wear OS.
Optimize for the wrist -
Help people complete tasks on the watch within seconds to avoid ergonomic discomfort or arm fatigue.
Use the appropriate surface for the task -
Wear OS has many more surfaces than mobile to engage users. Apps should tailor their content for those surfaces. Each surface has its own use case. If more action is required, direct users into your app's full experience called an overlay.
Add notifications to additional surfaces -
In Wear OS API level 30 and higher, pair any ongoing notification to an OngoingActivity to add that notification to additional surfaces within the Wear OS user interface to increase engagement with long running activities.
Support offline scenarios -
While a Wear OS device generally supports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, it might not support LTE. Design for spotty connections and offline use cases, such as exercising and commuting, when a user may leave their mobile device at home.
Provide relevant content -
The watch is almost always with the user. Keep your app content updated with the user's context, such as their time, place, and activity.
Aid users in completing a task from another device -
People increasingly own multiple devices. The watch can aid people in completing a task across a distributed ecosystem of devices. Review use cases where this make sense for your app.
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