App layouts

After you understand how to handle different watch shapes, decide which surface you want to use.

Common app layouts include the following:

  • Single screen (simplest): UI elements are limited to what is visible at one time without scrolling.
  • Vertical container (most common): content exists beyond the viewable portion of the screen and is accessible by scrolling.
  • Other options: lists, paging, or 2D panning.

These layout types are described in the sections that follow. You can use a combination of layout types if you need multiple screens.

Note: For your activity, inherit from either a ComponentActivity or, if you use fragments, a FragmentActivity. The other activity types use mobile-specific UI elements that you don't need for Wear OS.

Single screen

The user sees all elements in a single screen without scrolling. This means you can include only a small number of elements.

Figure 1. An example of a single screen layout.

Single screens work well with a BoxInsetLayout in combination with a ConstraintLayout to arrange your elements.

A BoxInsetLayout is a Wear OS UI widget that lets you define a single layout that works for square, rectangular, and round screens. This class applies the required window insets based on the screen shape and lets you easily align views in the center of the screen.

If you prefer to create separate layouts to take advantage of each screen shape, use layout-round and layout-notround. For more information, see Use different layouts for square and round screens.

Vertical container

A vertical container is the most common type of app layout. Some content isn't visible on the screen, but it is accessible by scrolling.

Figure 2 shows several complete app layouts in which only a portion of the content can be seen on the circular screen of a watch. In these examples, the main content is in the top portion of the container, and other Critical User Journeys (CUJs) and settings are at the bottom. This is a best practice for laying out content.

Figure 2. Examples of vertical container layouts.

Unlike in a single screen app layout, don't use BoxInsetLayout. Instead, use a ConstraintLayout inside a NestedScrollView. Inside the ConstraintLayout, place whatever widgets make the most sense for your app. This lets you take advantage of the extra space on the sides of a circular display.

Figure 3. Content in a ConstraintLayout inside a NestedScrollView.

Make sure the content at the top and bottom of your vertical container is small enough to fit in the top and bottom of a circular display, as in the example in figure 3.

Note: When possible, add a scroll indicator to your NestedScrollView by setting android:scrollbars="vertical" in the XML. This helps users identify that there is more content available and helps them see where they are in relation to all the content.

Other options for app layouts

  • Lists: display large sets of data with the WearableRecyclerView widget optimized for Wearable surfaces. For more information, see Create lists on Wear OS.
  • Horizontal paging: for use cases with multiple sibling screens, use a horizontal swipe. If you use horizontal paging, you must support swipe-to-dismiss for the left edge.
  • 2D Panning: for use cases like maps, users can drag to pan in different directions. Enable swipe-to-dismiss if your activity takes up the entire screen.