Google wants developers to update their Android Wear apps, and soon. The company released a revised version of its Android Wear SDK, which includes several key, under-the-hood changes.
LG recently began selling the Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE. It bears the distinction of being the first smartwatch to run Android 6.0 Marshmallow. With Marshmallow in tow, the Watch Urbane is at API level 23, and so is the new Android Wear SDK. Google says all apps will need to support API level 23, while maintaining backward compatibility with API level 22.
Perhaps the most important update to the SDK pertains to permissions. Android 6.0 introduced a completely new permissions model for all apps. Rather than force consumers to agree to all permissions en masse when the app is first downloaded, apps now ask permission for select behaviors as they come up. For example, the first time a person attempts to send a photo through the Google Hangouts app, Hangouts will ask if it is OK to access the photos.
API level 23 brings the new runtime permissions model to Android Wear watches. Google has a complete training guide on offer so developers can learn how to implement permissions properly. Developers will need to be sure both the watch and phone versions of the app are updated at the same time. Details are available here.
API level 23 makes it easier to build apps that run smoothly on both round and rectangular watches. Specifically, Google added resource qualifiers for -round and -notround, which let developers use the resource system to load the appropriate images, layouts, and strings based on the type of watch at hand. Google said these qualifiers can be mixed and matched with existing qualifiers for various screen resolutions.
Another big change: the Android Wear SDK now supports the x86 architecture. Tag Heuer recently began selling its first smartwatch, the Tag Heuer Connected. The Connected has an Intel processor packed inside, rather than a Qualcomm chip. Google says apps based purely on Java should function without issue, but apps assembled with the NDK will need to include both the ARM and x86 shared libraries to the wearable APK. Apps missing the x86 library will not install properly.
LG's new smartwatch is also the first Android Wear watch to include a speaker. The updated Android Wear SDK adds, you guessed it, support for sounds. Developers should be able to add audio file support to their apps using the same APIs used for Android phones.
Last, Google added new Android Wear emulator images for API 23 and x86 watches to the SDK Manager in Android Studio. It includes profiles that represent every available Android Wear watch, so developers can easily test on any device.
Google hasn't announced a schedule for updating existing watches to Android 6.0 Marshmallow and API level 23, but apps will need to be ready to go when the update is pushed out to end users.