Google is making big changes to how Wear OS apps look

Apps could be hidden from the Play store if they fail to meet the new criteria
Wareable Google is making big changes to how Wear OS apps look photo 1
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Google is getting stricter on Wear OS app developers, announcing a new set of guidelines that should shake up how the smartwatch platform looks in everyday use. 

The company unveiled the new suggestions in a blog post, citing a desire to "improve the quality of apps for Wear OS and their presentation in the Google Play Store". 

The new set of guidelines comes into effect on 31 August - presumably after we've seen the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 arrive, and potentially Wear OS 4.0 - and also means developers only have a few months to make their apps compliant. 

If they don't, Google says, they even risk being hidden from searches on the Play store.

So, what will actually change with the new guidelines?

Well, aside from making developers aim to make Wear OS apps compatible with Android 11 (and above) in order to maintain safety and security standards, there are a few key visual changes that you can expect to see in the latter half of this year. 

Googlewear os app guidelines

One of the more interesting is the decision to enforce all-black backgrounds on third-party apps, as shown above.

As we've seen with the Google Pixel Watch, doing so means the bezel blends in with the display across the UI, and it's likely it also has a positive impact on battery efficiency. 

Viewing ongoing workouts is also set to become a bit clearer, with Google demanding apps soon show an icon when an activity is being tracked.

Per the guidelines, apps must also show ongoing activity on a Tile (if the app is chosen to appear in the Tile carousel), and show live details in the app launcher, as well.

Googlewear os app guidelines

A basic feature that we've seen present in the Apple Watch for many years - the time being shown in the same spot across the whole UI - will be coming to Wear OS, too.

Google notes that it must be shown at the top of the display, though it doesn't need to be present in the likes of confirmation screens (and others on which users will only spend a couple of seconds). 

All in all, these obviously aren't game-changing additions to the platform, but it does once again highlight the attention Google is finally giving Wear OS. 

And as we've seen with other smartwatch operating systems, these small changes can also add up to make a big difference to the overall feel. 

The only question that really remains is how quickly third-party app developers will get up to speed and roll out updates.

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Conor Allison


Conor moved to Wareable Media Group in 2017, initially covering all the latest developments in smartwatches, fitness trackers, and VR. He made a name for himself writing about trying out translation earbuds on a first date and cycling with a wearable airbag, as well as covering the industry’s latest releases.

Following a stint as Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint, Conor returned to Wareable Media Group in 2022 as Editor-at-Large. Conor has become a wearables expert, and helps people get more from their wearable tech, via Wareable's considerable how-to-based guides. 

He has also contributed to British GQ, Wired, Metro, The Independent, and The Mirror. 

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