Wear OS user interfaces

Wear OS makes it easy for users to engage with apps optimized for a watch. Ensure that content is displayed on the appropriate surface.

App surfaces on Wear OS are designed with “jobs” in mind. For example, if you have a single unit of information that users are likely to want to glance at multiple times a day, consider providing a complication. If your content is high-value and highly-contextual, consider a notification instead.

surfaces

Another useful way to design app content intuitively on Wear OS is to consider the priority of information across surfaces, elevating the most valuable content to Wear OS’s glanceable surfaces.

Display the highest priority content in complications and notifications, and then use the larger space on the tile and overlay to display more content appropriately.

surfaces on watch

The following sections cover each of these in more detail.

Overlay

An overlay is a focused view that can serve a complex or less-common task, or a cluster of tasks. It's immersive, and similar to a mobile app's main user interface (UI), though there are some differences.

The other surfaces (Tiles, complications, and notifications) can link into an overlay to allow users to carry out more-complex tasks.

overlays

The following are some examples of when to use an overlay:

  • Start a workout.
  • Browse a playlist.
  • Send a message.
  • Review workout data.

Tile

Tiles provide quick, predictable access to information and actions, to solve user needs.

While overlays can be immersive, Tiles are fast-loading and focus on the user's immediate needs. If users want more information, they can tap Tiles to open an overlay on the watch.

tile

The following are examples of when to use Tiles:

  • Track the user’s daily activity progress.
  • Quick-start a workout.
  • Start a recently played song.
  • Send a message to a favorite contact.

Complication

A complication is a single, often-repeated action or a highly glanceable unit of information on the watchface. Like with Tiles, users can tap complications to open an overlay on the watch for a deeper experience.

complication

The following are examples of when to use complications:

  • Date
  • Water intake
  • Steps
  • Current weather

Notification

A notification provides glanceable, time-sensitive information and actions for the user. Notifications on Wear OS are similar to mobile notifications.

notification

The following are examples of when to use a notification:

  • Show a new message or email.
  • Track a workout after you have left an overlay experience.
  • Show information on the current song playing.

App launcher

App launcher entries help users start and return to experiences on their watch. Tapping a shortcut launches an app overlay.

app-launcher

The following are examples of when to use app launcher:

  • Launch a music app overlay to start listening to music.
  • Launch a fitness app overlay to start a workout.
  • Launch a messaging app overlay to send a message.

Watch face

Watch faces are dynamic, digital canvases where users can express their style. Most apps won't need to create a custom watch face. However, if creating a watch face does makes sense for your app, Wear OS allows you to customize the surface as much as you want.

watch-face

The following are examples of when to use a custom watch face:

  • Customized analog timepiece
  • Customized digital timepiece that displays complications