What Android Wear Means for Your Mobile Apps

  • Android Wear paves the way for a new generation of wearables.
  • Integrating the digital world into the physical is challenging developers.
  • Stay tuned as apps incorporate context to deliver intuitive design.

In a Google video about Android Wear, the company outlined some of the benefits of APIs and the upcoming software development kit (SDK) that should be available in July. This is great news for consumer and enterprise developers looking to create apps for wearables, such as smart watches and eye glasses, without extensive recoding.

Timothy Jordan, a Google developer advocate, described Android Wear as a set of APIs that extends the Android platform to a new generation of wearables. It allows rich notifications to appear on the wearable without requiring the developer to modify an existing Android application. If the developer chooses to improve the experience for wearables, the app can be modified with a few lines of code — or the developer can choose to build a new application.

Present and connected

The ever-increasing issue with mobile technology is how to integrate the digital world into the physical world in an unobtrusive way. Jordan described this as useful information at a glance that allows us to be more present in the real world while being more connected in the virtual world. One method of accomplishing this is rich notification on wearable devices such as smart watches. New types of rich notifications, such as stacks, allow you to bundle multiple notifications together and respond with open-ended or established text messages.

In previous blog posts, I discussed the concept of matching the right content and features to the device a person is using. I’ve described a term called “right-time experience,” which is providing a person with the right information on the right device at the point of need. This is exactly what Jordan describes as he discusses what functions should be available on a watch versus the interface for a smartphone. He illustrates how the user experience would be compromised if the user had to scroll through multiple screens of apps on a watch. His call to action was simple: How do we change the paradigm and get past this grid of icons?

From icons to intuitive design

This shift is based on simplicity and designed around micro-interactions. To accomplish this, a company’s apps team must match both the navigation method and displayed data to the device. For example, it makes sense for the app to use a voice interface to navigate content on a wearable device, but to use touch navigation on a tablet. It also makes sense to display just the most relevant and actionable information on a one-inch screen while more information can be displayed on larger screens.

The Android Wear SDK will also include the ability to collect sensor data. This means apps will be able to use context to improve the user experience. In my opinion, mobile apps will need to incorporate context to be relevant.

What types of contextual apps are you providing and how will you develop them? Will your company be designing apps for wearables this year?


Maribel Lopez is the CEO and mobile market strategist for Lopez Research, a market research and strategy consulting firm that specializes in communications technologies with a heavy emphasis on the disruptive nature of mobile technologies. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.
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