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Google sets new standards for Wear OS app developers

Google wants to improve app consistency across Wear OS. (Image source: Google)
Google wants to improve app consistency across Wear OS. (Image source: Google)
Google has published new guidelines for Wear OS smartwatch apps. Theoretically, the changes should result in higher software quality across Wear OS, with 39 UX guidelines set for Wear OS 3, instead of a mere 8 with Wear OS 2.

Google has revealed new guidelines for Wear OS, a few days on from announcing refinements for its smartwatch OS. Published on the Android Developers Blog, the new guidelines centre on the notion that developers must optimise their apps Wear OS 3, and Android 11 by extension. Supposedly, Google will start hiding apps from the Google Play Store that fail to meet this requirement after August 31, 2023. In other words, Google is forcing developers to update their smartwatch apps within the next six months if they want people to continue downloading them.

As a result, it seems that recent smartwatches like the Galaxy Watch5 series and the Pixel Watch will receive updates for numerous third-party apps that do not necessarily introduce any new functionality. Instead, Google's new guidelines require apps to make changes like using only a black background image, presumably to reduce power consumption on AMOLED displays.

(Image source: Google)
(Image source: Google)
(Image source: Google)
(Image source: Google)

Additionally, apps must report if they are running in the background to an active watch face, as well as to the app drawer and associated app tile. Moreover, while apps must display the time at the top of the screen, dialogue boxes will no longer have this option. Also, it must be possible to exit an app with a swipe gesture, fitness and navigation apps excluded.

Furthermore, Google is requiring developers to support rotating crowns and show a scroll bar when an app has content through which people can scroll. Apps will need to remember and restore their previous states within a minute of being re-opened too. Elsewhere, Google has set a minimum 10-sp font size for most text, which expands to 12-sp for key text. Please see Google's Android Developers Blog post for more details.

(Image source: Google)
(Image source: Google)

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Alex Alderson, 2023-03- 3 (Update: 2023-03- 3)