Designing apps for wearable devices powered by Android Wear is substantially different than designing for phones or tablets: different strengths and weaknesses, different use cases, different ergonomics. To get started, you should understand the overall vision for the Android Wear experience, and how apps fit into and enhance this experience. We've also provided source files for UI resources that you can use in your own apps in the Downloads section.
UI Toolkit, Flows, and Mocks
A new form factor deserves a new UI model. At a high level, the Android Wear UI consists of two main spaces centered around the core functions of Suggest and Demand. Your app will have an important role to play in both of these spaces.
Suggest: The Context Stream
The context stream is a vertical list of cards, each showing a useful or timely piece of information. Much like the Google Now feature on Android phones and tablets, users swipe vertically to navigate from card to card. Only one card is displayed at a time, and background photos are used to provide additional visual information. Your application can create cards and inject them into the stream when they are most likely to be useful.
This UI model ensures that users don’t have to launch many different applications to check for updates; they can simply glance at their stream for a brief update on what’s important to them.
Cards in the stream are more than simple notifications. They can be swiped horizontally to reveal additional pages. Further horizontal swiping may reveal buttons, allowing the user to take action on the notification. Cards can also be dismissed by swiping left to right, removing them from the stream until the next time the app has useful information to display.
Demand: Full Screen Apps
For situations requiring richer user interaction than what’s possible with cards in the context stream, developers can create full screen, on-demand apps that users run via voice command (e.g. “okay Google, start a workout”), from a context card, or through the Android Wear app launcher.
Full screen Wear apps use the same development structure as those for phone and tablet apps. However, for Wear apps, developers should consider use cases that are appropriate for the device form factor and capabilities. For example, as Wear devices have smaller screens than smartphones, apps that require intense user input may be inappropriate for Wear. On the other hand, since Wear devices are worn on the wrist, they’re ideal for quick, on demand interactions. Therefore, developers should consider building apps for Wear that quickly give users access to information, or allow them to accomplish tasks that are relevant to their immediate needs.
Although not stylistically limited to the context stream pattern, full screen apps for Wear should respect the same design principles as the rest of the system. For more information, see the App Structure guide.
Other UI Features
- The Home screen is the default state of the device and it features:
- The background, showing either content relating to the first card or a custom watch face design, depending on the watch face the user has chosen.
- Voice queries, which can be invoked by saying "Ok Google".
- Status indicators, showing connectivity, charging status, airplane mode, and in some watch faces a count of unread items.
- The top ranked card in the context stream, peeking up at the bottom of the screen. The amount of the peek card that appears is determined by the current watch face.
- Watch faces may be chosen by the user to appear in the background of the Home screen. Watch faces display the time and accommodate the top ranked peek card. The user can choose a different watch face by long pressing on the current one.
- Some devices may enter a low-power Ambient Mode when not being used. This usually involves dimming the screen in some way. The contents of a peek card will automatically be optimized for display in this state. Users can exit ambient mode by tapping on the screen, by tilting the screen towards them, or by pressing a hardware button if one exists.
- Swiping down on the Home screen reveals the Date and current battery level, and allows users to toggle the Do Not Disturb mode. Swiping to the right after swiping down provides access to the device settings, and allows users to toggle the Theater mode.