Web Design & Application Development

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Android Wear Development

Lesson 1: Introduction to Android Wear

1. Introduction to Android Wear

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These are Android Wear watches. The first thing that you'll notice is that they don't look like other Android devices. Now this is key, because they are used differently than other devices like a phone or tablet. The UI is different. They're worn, instead of put pocket, and so on.

The second you'll notice is that these watches are as diverse as the broad set of users who wear them. You might be dealing with a square screen, or a round screen, your user might be a runner or might be a pilot. Instead of fighting these issues, embrace them by designing an app that works great on any watch and in any situation that makes sense. The good news is that from the perspective of actually writing code, these watches look very similar to Android phones and tablets. Much of the underlying software is exactly the same. Even the hardware is basically the same with similar senses and functionality.

So once you learn all the new paradigms of designing for a wearable, you can jump in a familiar Android territory to build it. In this introductory lesson, I'll give you an overview of the design philosophy and platform components of Android Wear. But first, let's start with the demo.

2. Design Interface

This is Android Wear. It's simple, glanceable, and built around micro-interactions. Now, the interface is divided into two primary behaviors. First, the user can talk to the wearable: "Okay, Google, set a timer for five minutes."

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You can think of these as actions. Also, the wearable can talk to the user, and you can think of this as the context stream. It's sort of like enhanced Notifications that matter to the user right now because it's the right time or place.

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That's the basic framework and it sets you up for success. But to really make it all the way there, you need to carry the design philosophy into your application as well. Let's talk about that in more detail.

3. Design Philosophy

By providing the smart connection to the rest of the world while respecting the user's attention, Android Wear feels personal and global. It's simple and smart, and it's unobtrusive and ever-ready.

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Now applications that represent the following principles will feel most at home in the overall Android Wear experience. Wearable apps are aware of the user's context, their time, location, and physical activity. Now the apps use this information to insert cards into the stream when they become relevant. This makes Android Wear timely, relevant, and very specific.

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A classic wristwatch is designed to let you see the time in a split second and get on with what you were doing. And it should be the same for Android Wear. The less time it takes to use your software, the more time the user can be present in whatever they're doing, and the more overall value they get. Android wear is fast, sharp, and immediate.

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Remember what we looked at just a moment ago. The wearable can talk to the user, and the user can ask things of the wearable. Now you can visualize this much like a personal assistant. It knows you and your preferences. It'll only interrupts you when absolutely necessary, and it's always on hand to provide a ready answer. Android Wear is helpful, it's respectful, and it's responsive.

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Android Wear focuses on simple interactions, only requiring input by the user when absolutely necessary. Most inputs are based around touch swipes and voice. And inputs requiring fine-grained finger movements are to be avoided. The Android Wear is gestural, simple, and fast.

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Now keep these in mind as you dream up your Android Wear experience. As with everything here, please also check out the additional detail in our documentation.

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Android Wear Documentation

4. Platform

The Android ware platform emphasizes depth and flexibility. Built on Android, it allows developers to use familiar APIs to create useful, performance and imaginative apps that run directly on the watch. In the spirit of Android, you have the freedom to make substantial changes to the user experience, including the creation of custom watch faces. There are three main categories of experiences you can build. Notifications, watch faces and apps.

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5. Notifications

Android wear notifications are the easiest way to get started in the world of wearables.

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If you've got an Android app with notifications, they already work on the watch.

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If you've already enhanced your notification with actions, such as next or previous. This is even better, and also automatically works with no additional work required.

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You can take things further with Wear's specific functionality that make your notifications even richer experiences on the wrist.

Stacks, which are like inbox style notifications, now you can deliver multiple items in a single bundle.

Pages are for showing multiple screens of information on the same topic. But, remember to stay glanceable.

Replies. Now replies allow the user to respond directly from the wearable with their voice.

6. Watch Faces

The ability to create custom watch faces gives you direct access to the most prominent UI element on the user's most personal device. And the API is simple enough to build watch faces quickly and flexible enough to allow personalization. Given the depth and flexibility of the Android platform, you can create something for the user that's both beautiful and packed with unique features.

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And here's a few design guidelines that'll set the right context for making these design decisions. First, the Android wear comes in multiple form factors. So you want to make sure that your watch faces work great on both round and square watches. Next, there are two primary states for Android wear. Interactive Mode is in full color and motion with fluid animation. Now, this is typically when a user is giving focused attention to their watch. Ambient Mode is a low power state and it should use a limited color palette that's only updated once a minute. And finally, make sure to take special screens into account. On low bit screens, pixels in ambient mode are either off or on, which means you'll only want to use black and white with no anti-aliasing.

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You're also going to want to use burn-in protection techniques with OLED screens, like avoiding large blocks of opaque pixels. In fact, we recommend that around 95% of the screen in ambient mode remain black. Once you've finalized your design, the best way to start developing is either to start with a sample or a template in Android Studio. And there are three main methods which you're going to want to know about.

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First the onCreate method.

You'll take care of your initialization tasks, such as loading resources or initializing paint objects for later use in this method. You can scale these objects using the...

onSurfaceChanged method. And this method has the screen size passed in as one of its parameters. If you have a bitmap background, or watch hands, this is a great place to scale them to the right size.

At the core of the watchface API is the onDraw method.

Now that allows you to draw whatever design you can think of to the canvas at a high enough frame rate to deliver fluid animation. Now, this is going to come through at full fidelity while the watch is in interactive mode. And at other times when the watch is in ambient mode, you're able to draw a more discrete version of the watch while also saving power.

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Additional preferences can be set to arrange the System UI elements appropriately for your design.

Once those basics are covered, the limits are your imagination. You can go further with additions like, I don't know a moon phase, the current weather or even fitness stats. Now watchmakers call these items complications, but with Android Wear they're hardly complicated. Once you have the data, just draw it on the canvas as you did the time.

7. Conclusion

The user experiences you build for Android Wear get to take advantage of the power and flexibility of the Android platform. It's easy to get started and possible to create a truly ground breaking UI for your users. In the following lessons, Wayne will take you through the details of wearable notifications, building an app that runs on the watch, and creating a custom watch face. Ready to get started Wayne? Let's do this.