At its I/O developer conference today, Google announced a new way for developers to build Wear OS watch faces, along with overall updates to the Android Wear platform, including Wear OS 4.
With this update, developers now get access to a new declarative format to design and build their watch faces, using the Jetpack Watch Face library, when they build watch faces for Wear OS 4 watches. Since the new format is based on this library, developers will automatically benefit from any updates to it, including future performance and battery improvements.
Since the new format is basically just an XML file, there is now no executable code involved in building these new watch faces. Hence, no code will be embedded in the watch face APK.
Using the new library, developers will still be able to create the same types of watch faces as before, be those the standard analog and digital watch faces with or without complications or more customizable ones. The watch face editor is now also part of Wear OS, so developers who want to build these customizable watch faces will no longer have to build their own editor for them.
Samsung has already integrated this new format as part of its Watch Face Studio.
Android Wear/Wear OS didn’t have the most promising start when it first launched in 2014. For the longest time, it was overshadowed by Apple’s Watch OS (even though that launched almost a full year later) and it felt like it was most lingering at the periphery of the Android ecosystem. During this time, it was slowly propelled forward by the stubborn manufacturer ecosystem around it and only really got a shot in the arm when Samsung made the switch from its own Tizen operating system a couple of years ago. With Google’s Pixel Watch now on the market, there is an even stronger incentive for Google to innovate in this space.