Google today released the Android Wear Watch Face API, a tool developers can use to create interesting and unique watch faces for Android Wear devices. Google sees the API as a win-win for developers and consumers alike. Developers get to stick their brand or user interface concepts on smartwatches which will, in turn, give smartwatch owners more choice when it comes to expressing their personal style.
According to Google, watch faces are the most requested feature from users and developers alike and it is anxious to see what developers do with the new API. Google claims the API is "simple enough for rapid development and flexible enough to build something awesome." In order to kick things off, Google offered early access to a handful of developer partners who have already put forth some great concepts (view here). Google has also published a set of "classes" that developers can take to help get them up to speed.
Watch faces run on the wearable app associated with the phone and watch. Developers can create as many faces as they want and make them available with a single app install. Developers can give users some options for controlling the watch faces, such as selecting beween 12- or 24-hour time formats, or picking from multiple different backgrounds. Want to throw some weather up in the background of the watch face? Simply take advantage of the supported background services, which also include calendar events. Developers need not think only in terms of digital or analog watch design, but also entirely new ways to view the time if they so wish.
In conjunction with the Watch Face API, Google is pushing out a new version of Android Wear based on Android 5.0 Lollipop. That means all Wear apps will jump to API level 21. The new version of Android Wear should hit most consumer devices over the next couple of weeks. Consumers won't be able to interact with the new watch faces until their Wear devices are running the latest version of the OS. (Don't worry: all phones running Android 4.3+ will still work with all Android Wear devices.) Google noted all these tools will be easy to use in the new Android Studio.
Google suggests that developers who've created their own watch faces using an "unofficial approach" should migrate their watch to this new official API. Google says this will help maintain a more consistent experience for users across devices and apps. To be specific, Google wants all existing watch faces transitioned to the new API by January 31, 2015. After that point, watch faces that don't use the official API will no longer be supported on consumer devices.
Worried about the visibility of your watch face? Don't be. Android Wear devices based on Android 5.0 Lollipop will be browsable directly in the Play Store. Google plans to set up a dedicated section of the Play Store just for watch faces. Google reminds developers to designate their apps as compatible with Android Wear so they do, in fact, wind up in the Wear section of the Play Store.
According to Google: "In the few short months since we've launched Android Wear, developers have already written thousands of apps, taking advantage of custom notifications, voice actions, and fully native Android capabilities. With support for custom watch faces launching today, users will have even more choices in the future. These choices are at the heart of a rich Android Wear ecosystem and as we continue to open up core features of the platform to developers, we can’t wait to see what you build next."
Check out this video for an entertaining introduction to the Watch Faces API: