The challenges of making an Android Wear app

June 3, 2014
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Introducing Android Wear Developer Preview - YouTube 09 001265

A new opportunity for developers arises as Android Wear enters the market. This wearable platform is to unify the smartwatch market, finally giving it uniformity and a common work table for manufacturers. It will do for smartwatches what Android did for smartphones.

There is one factor we must put attention to, though, and it is paramount. The amount of developer support the platform gets will go parallel with its success. Without real support no OS can take off, but is Google doing a good job at making things simple and enticing for developers?

Roman Nurik and Timothy Jordan are among the first to develop an Android Wear application and have taken us through a brief explanation of the process.

Devices

Of course, having a device to test the app on is a must. There is no way to build a good app without seeing it in action. You must take into account the general design, screen resolution, text readability, color and more.

Both developers have test Android Wear devices – one is using the LG G Watch while the other owns a Moto 360. The developers mention the device is very important, and making an app for it was like seeing their very first app in action all over again.

The fact their app was living right on their wrists was a different experience… a new form-factor and shape makes the experience all worth it. Not to mention, they got to test some pretty awesome smartwatches!

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There is something I would like to point out, though. While I am a huge fan of the Moto 360 design, the unit just lost some points under my eyes. It looks quite huge in the developer’s wrist! I thought it would be much smaller and discrete. Now that I see them both in action, I am starting to lean towards the LG G Watch.

Designing for the rectangular and circular screens

This is another big challenge we can see arising. We can compare it to the infamous Android fragmentation. Having multiple shapes and sizes makes it harder for developers to optimize their apps. With that in mind, will these different form factors make it difficult for developers to adapt their apps to both types of screens?

Yes, there will be a bit of extra work, but this doesn’t mean it will be a deal-breaker for most developers. In fact, Roman Nurik and Timothy Jordan swear it was dead simple to migrate their app to a circular design.

Because Android Wear focuses on simplicity and is limited to certain pixel counts, this forces the developer to make a less complex apps. At the end of the day, there will be less images to change. In addition, they didn’t really have to change the layouts, they only had to slightly edit the images to better fit the display.

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The App

Now let’s talk about the app these developers created. It seems rather fun and opens our eyes to the future of wearable technology. A future where devices will make our lives more enjoyable without giving us a headache first (something most current smartwatches do).

The app takes into account your location and offers you walking tours when you are close to an area worth admiring. A notification prompting you to start the walking tour will then show up in your screen as a “low priority notification”. This means it will be displayed after your messages and other more important notifications.

The interface should then give you directions and show you important landmarks. It’s really quite ingenious and should make long walks that much more interesting.

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The challenges?

As you can see, there weren’t many challenges for these developers. It seems the process was quite enjoyable, even if this app is not completed yet. Of course, it all depends on the nature of the app, but it seems Google is making a remarkable job at making it as convenient to app makers as possible.

I can’t wait to give this app a test once available, and to see what else shows up. What kinds of apps would you like to see? Let us know in the comments below.

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