Standalone versus non-standalone Wear OS apps

We recommend that Wear OS apps work independently of a phone so users can complete tasks on a watch without access to an Android or iOS phone. If your watch app requires phone interaction, you must mark your Wear OS app as non-standalone and take steps to ensure that the user has the phone app available.

Plan your app

You can use Android App Bundle to automatically generate optimized Android Package Kits (APKs) for each user’s device configuration under the same application listing. This lets users download only the code and resources they need to run your app.

For information about setting up your app for distribution through the Google Play Store, see Package and distribute Wear OS Apps and the guide to getting started with Android App Bundles.

For new apps, the target API level must be 30 or higher. For more information, see Meet Google Play's target API level requirement. Set the targetSdkVersion to API level 30 (Wear OS 3) to help ensure that your app works well on the latest platform version.

For information about network requests and high-bandwidth network access, see Network access and sync on Wear OS.

Define an app as a Wear OS app

You must define the <uses-feature> tag in your app's Android manifest file. To indicate that it is a watch app, add an entry like the following:

  <uses-feature android:name="" />

Identify an app as standalone or non-standalone

A watch app is considered either standalone or non-standalone:

  • Standalone: a completely independent app that doesn't require a phone app for core features. Although "Open on phone" prompts are acceptable, the app must provide alternative means for users to complete an app function—such as a shortlink or QR code—without depending on a tethered phone.
  • Non-standalone: a dependent app that requires an app on a phone or another device for core features. This option is best for apps when they can't easily provide an alternative means—such as a QR code or shortlink—for completing a core app function, such as authentication.

Note: Even for non-standalone apps, users can install the Wear OS app before the mobile app. So if your Wear OS app detects that a nearby handheld device lacks the necessary companion app, prompt the user to install the companion app.

Google validates the accuracy of an app's standalone status during app serving. This value affects the visibility of apps within the Play Store on untethered devices, such as Wear OS devices that aren't paired to handheld devices. Non-standalone apps—as well as apps that developers incorrectly designate as "standalone"—aren't available to users on these untethered devices.

In your Wear OS app, set the value of meta-data element in the Android manifest file to declare whether your app is standalone or non-standalone.

If your watch app is a completely independent, standalone app, indicate this to the Google Play store by setting the value of to true:

    android:value="true" />

If your watch app is non-standalone and depends on another app for core features, set the value of to false. This signifies that the watch app requires another device, but doesn't affect your app promotion on the Google Play Store.

Note: Even if the value of is false, the watch app can be installed before the phone app is installed. Therefore, if your watch app detects that a companion phone lacks the necessary phone app, as described on this page, prompt the user to install the phone app.

Shared code and data storage

Code can be shared between a Wear OS app and a phone app. For example, common code for networking can be in a shared library.

Optionally, code that is specific to a form factor can be in a separate module.

You can use standard Android storage APIs to store data locally, as you would on a phone. For example, you can use the SharedPreferences APIs or the Room persistence library.

Detect your app on another device

Your watch app and corresponding phone app can each detect whether the other app is available.

Your phone and watch apps can use the CapabilityClient to advertise their presence to a paired device. They can do so statically or dynamically.

When an app is on a node in a user's Wear OS network, such as on a phone, paired watch, or in the cloud, the CapabilityClient lets other apps detect it. For more information, see Advertise capabilities.

If one of your apps can't detect the other, you can prompt the user to open the Play Store listing on the affected device. This is a solution for watch apps that require their companion phone app's presence to function properly.

You must check whether the Play Store is available on the device, because not all phones—such as iPhones—support the Play Store.

The following sections describe best practices for two scenarios:

  • Your standalone watch app needs your phone app.
  • Your phone app needs your standalone watch app.

You can also review the Datalayer helpers sample, which shows how to use the Datalayer helpers libraries, part of Horologist. These helpers let you monitor the connection between a handheld device and a Wear OS device. For more information about the classes described in the following section, see the Wear OS API reference. That reference also includes information about the PhoneTypeHelper class, which contains a getPhoneDeviceType() method that lets your Wear OS app check whether a companion phone is an Android or iOS device.

Specify capability names for detecting your apps

For the app corresponding to each device type, either watch or phone, specify a unique string for the capability name in the res/values/wear.xml file.

For example, in your mobile module, the wear.xml file could include the following:

<resources xmlns:tools=""
    <string-array name="android_wear_capabilities">

In your Wear OS module, the wear.xml file includes a different value for the capability name, such as the following:

<resources xmlns:tools=""
    <string-array name="android_wear_capabilities">

For more information, see Advertise capabilities.

App detection and opening a URL from a watch

Your watch app can detect whether a user's companion phone has your phone app. Follow these steps:

  1. Use the CapabilityClient to check whether your phone app is installed on the paired phone. For more information, see the Datalayer helpers sample on GitHub.
  2. If your phone app isn't installed on the phone, use the PhoneDeviceType.getPhoneDeviceType() method to check the type of the phone. See the following section for details.
  3. If PhoneDeviceType.DEVICE_TYPE_ANDROID is returned, the phone is an Android phone. Call RemoteActivityHelper.startRemoteActivity() on the Wear OS device to open the Play Store on the phone. Use the market URI for your phone app, which might be different from your Wear app's URI. For example, use a market URI such as: market://details?
  4. If PhoneDeviceType.DEVICE_TYPE_IOS is returned, the phone is an iOS phone with no Play Store available. Open the App Store on the iPhone by calling RemoteActivityHelper.startRemoteActivity() on the Wear OS device. You can specify your app's iTunes URL, such as

    From Wear OS, you cannot programmatically determine whether your phone app is installed on an iOS device. As a best practice, provide a mechanism to the user to manually trigger the opening of the App Store.

Note: Use the RemoteActivityHelper API previously described to specify that any URL be opened on the phone from the watch, and that no phone app is required.

Details for detecting the type of paired phone

Here is a snippet that uses the getPhoneDeviceType() method to check the type of phone to which the watch is paired:


var phoneDeviceType: Int = PhoneDeviceType.getPhoneDeviceType(context)


int phoneDeviceType = PhoneDeviceType.getPhoneDeviceType(context);

The value returned by the getPhoneDeviceType() method is one of the following:

Return value Description
DEVICE_TYPE_ANDROID The companion phone is an Android device.
DEVICE_TYPE_IOS The companion phone is an iOS device.
DEVICE_TYPE_UNKNOWN The companion phone is an unknown device.
DEVICE_TYPE_ERROR An error occurred in determining the type of the paired phone; another check should be made later.

App detection starting from an Android phone

Your Android phone can detect whether a user's Wear OS devices have your watch app. Follow these steps:

  1. Using the NodeClient, find all watches connected to the user's phone. For more information, see the Datalayer helpers sample on GitHub.
  2. Using the CapabilityClient, check which of the user's watches has your app installed.
  3. If your app isn't installed on all of the user's watches, let the user open the Play Store on the remaining Wear OS devices from the phone using the RemoteActivityHelper.startRemoteActivity() method. Use the market URI for the Wear OS app, which might be different from your phone app's URI. For example, use a market URI such as: market://details?

Location data for watches paired to iPhones

For watches paired with iPhones, use the Fused Location Provider (FLP) to get location data on the watch. For more information, see Detect location on Wear OS.

If the companion phone is available, FLP uses the companion phone for location data.

Obtain only necessary data

Generally, when obtaining data from the internet, get only the necessary data. Otherwise, you may introduce unnecessary latency, memory use, and battery use.

When a watch is connected over a Bluetooth LE connection, your app might have access to a bandwidth of only 4 kilobytes per second, depending on the watch. Therefore, the following steps are recommended:

  • Audit your network requests and responses for extra data that is only needed for a phone app.
  • Shrink large images before you send them over a network to a watch.

For cases where a high-bandwidth network is needed, see High-bandwidth network access.

Additional code samples

The Datalayer helpers sample further demonstrates the use of the APIs covered on this page.