Google guides developers building for Android Wear

The Internet giant has made a push in wearables. Now it's trying to teach developers how to get users to love such devices.

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Google highlights tips for designing apps on wearable devices. Google

We may be on the precipice of the wearable device era, and Google wants to make sure developers accustomed to smartphones or PC displays know how to design apps for unfamiliar screens like a watch face.

The search giant in March unveiled Android Wear, a modified version of its Android mobile operating system, meant specifically for wearables like smartwatches. The OS, which taps heavily into Google Now's voice recognition technology, signals the company's surge into the emerging market. Smartwatches that run Android Wear will include the LG G Watch and the Moto 360.

But for consumers to adopt wearables en masse, device makers and developers will need to make sure that the gadgets are useful enough for consumers to buy and used them, and not chuck them aside after a few weeks. Enter a blog post published Tuesday by Roman Nurik and Timothy Jordan, designers on the Android Wear team.

Nurik and Jordan said there are certain nuances that come with designing for wearables -- down to the very way developers should think of the software. "It's more important than ever to think of apps on wearable devices not as icons on a grid but rather as functional overlays on the operating system itself," Roman said.

That sounds like developer-speak, but part of his point is that apps on wearable devices have to be rethought from smartphone apps, especially with less real estate to work with on something like a watch display.

"Just like with Glass, you really need to think carefully about the information and actions you present to the user, and even more so about the contexts in which your app will come to the surface," the blog reads.

The Android Wear team members also detailed their design process for other things developers should find helpful, including designing for a square screen versus a circular one -- like the screen on the Moto 360.

Google is already the purveyor of the most popular mobile operating system in the world. Samsung, who's devices run Android, is the No. 1 smartphone company globally. Making sure the OS has a head start in a new device category means Google can expand Android's presence and collect valuable user data -- information that's even more personalized than usage data on smartphones.

The company has already announced Android Wear partnerships with companies including LG, Motorola, Samsung, Asus, and HTC.

Google isn't the only tech giant laying groundwork in wearable computing. The company's arch rival, Apple, is rumored to be working on a so-called iWatch, and companies like Intel and Qualcomm are also investing in the category.

Android Wear will also have a significant presence at Google's annual developer confab, I/O, later this month -- including a session specifically on designing for wearables.

 

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