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Android Wear

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

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