WearOS 3 – time for a change
The new version of Android for watches is called WearOS 3 and is advertised by Google as a revolution in the smartwatch market. For now, there are not many watch models based on this version of the system – currently the latest Galaxy Watch from Samsung and the Pixel Watch from Google, but this will naturally change over time.
On the occasion of the launch of the new version of the watch system, Google caused a massive fuss by claiming that apps written for the previous version of WearOS 2 would not be compatible with WearOS 3. In fact, this is not the case – the vast majority of software written for WearOS 2 runs seamlessly on WearOS 3. It’s hard to expect otherwise since WearOS 3 is essentially Android 11, and WearOS 2 is simply Android 9. What is different, however, are Google’s requirements for WearOS apps released in the Google Play store – here there have indeed been significant changes.
Any software incompatibilities can only be attributed to the fact that the newer WearOS release is based on version 11 of Android, so all the mechanisms familiar from the “big” version of the system are present here as well – in particular, this applies to the user permissions subsystem for location, disk storage, camera, microphone and Bluetooth use. Applications that use these permissions are subject to the same restrictions as those on phones and require customization.
There has been one major change to Google Play – in order to release a watch app in the store, it must be compatible with WearOS 3, and more specifically with Google’s quality guidelines set for the system. The biggest change is the complete abandonment of horizontal tab support in favor of a more “phone-like” approach – app screens now must to be scrolled vertically. So far, the horizontal layout characteristic of WearOS based on right and left swiping gestures is unwelcome according to the new guidelines. This sometimes implies the need for very deep changes to the app.
While the implementation of the new permissions system from Android 11 doesn’t represent a major change for the user – the watch simply asks an additional question at the appropriate time whether the user consents to the action – often a complete change to the app’s user interface affects the interaction with the app and the user experience. This is especially true for apps that are used on a daily basis and whose user interface is daily routine to users – a complete change in the way an app is used can result in user abandonment. Therefore, when planning the development of your WearOS app, special attention should now be paid to UX, especially if the app was designed according to the existing wearOS “flow”.
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