Wear OS 3 app developers, take note

The launch of the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 in 2021 and the Google Pixel Watch in 2022 have acted as a catalyst for Wear OS 3’s growth. Besides launching its first smartwatch, the big G updated and released several new Wear OS apps to deliver a better user experience. While Google’s efforts have helped in getting developers onboard, many third-party Wear OS apps continue to provide a sub-par experience. To ensure this does not ruin the fun of using your favorite Android smartwatch, the company has announced some policy changes for Wear OS 3 apps.

In total, Google is adding over 30 new requirements that developers of Wear OS 3 apps and watch faces should follow. Out of these, four are significant user-facing changes. First, to deliver a consistent experience across apps, all Wear OS 3 apps and tiles must use a black background. This should help with content readability and save battery life since almost all Wear OS watches use an AMOLED panel.

Second, the company wants apps that track activities to show an ongoing indicator on the watch face and update the recent apps section with the said activity. Additionally, if the app’s tile is being used on the watch face, it should update itself to reflect the ongoing activity.

Third, Google requires apps to display the time clearly at the top of their home screen and activity screens. The only exceptions are a dialog box or a confirmation screen you only spend a few seconds.

Fourth, apps must preserve their state when pushed to the background, and there should not be any data loss. Google also requires apps to resume as close to their last closed state if relaunched within minutes of their last use. This critical usability enhancement should greatly benefit the experience of using third-party Wear OS apps.

Another minor change is that apps must use 12sp font size for essential text to improve readability. Developers must update their Wear OS apps to adhere to the new guidelines by August 31, 2023.

Besides the usability changes, Google wants developers to build their Wear OS apps targeting Android 11 and API level 30. All Wear OS apps built targeting older Wear OS releases will stop being discoverable on Google Play on Android 11 or newer phones starting August 31, 2023.

Conclusion on Google’s latest guidelines are here to help improve Wear OS 3 apps

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