Will Verduzco · Mar 21, 2014 at 07:30 pm

Just How “Open” is Android Wear?

To say that Android Wear has been on everyone’s mind ever since its unveiling would be a bit of an understatement. While we’re still several months away from being able to purchase Wear-powered devices, we can already install the emulator on our PCs, root it, and even attempt to port the software to other smartwatches such as the original Galaxy Gear and Moto Actv thanks to an emulator system dump.

While much is already know about how Wear will work from an end-user perspective, remarkably little is known about Wear from a developer perspective. Yes, we all know that Wear is built atop AOSP code—and because of this, it will be compatible with a large percentage of standard Android apps with little to no modification. However, what we don’t yet know is how open (or closed) Wear will be.

It’s no secret that in Android’s latest iterations, Google has not-so-slowly been replacing various open source AOSP components with their closed-source counterparts—just take a look at Hangouts, Chrome Browser, and if you own a Nexus or GPe device, the Google Experience Launcher. How will this play out with Android Wear? Unfortunately, nobody (other than Google) knows.

Since Android Wear is built atop the same Android underpinnings as Android OS proper, a large portion of its code is already in the AOSP. But what about the Wear-specific Google-provided apps like the wearable-friendly launcher and the rest of its platform-specific apps? Judging from current trends, it’s quite possible that Google will want to keep these pieces closed source. This would afford Google a greater degree of control over the platform, though it could also limit the types of devices that Wear can power.

XDA Recognized Developer mikereidis offers an interesting perspective:

Yes, IMO a VERY important question that hasn’t been answered yet.

I would be concerned that Google felt it was TOO open with Android proper and tried to restrict Wear even more.

If the current preview emulator is a good indication, then Wear is just another variant of Android. Many normal apps can run on it right now, though with issues. I tested my own app and it more or less worked, with a squished UI.
So I think a LOT of the Wear code is effectively already IN AOSP already.

But will Google release enough Wear specific code for custom ROMs to be built ? I very much hope so.

So how “open” is Android Wear? Is it worth it for Google to sacrifice some degree of openness in order to retain greater control of the platform? Will it be open enough to allow aftermarket ROM developers to port Wear over to current generation smartwatches? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below, and don’t forget to head over to the original thread in our Android Wear forums to continue the discussion!


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Will Verduzco

willverduzco is an editor on XDA-Developers, the largest community for Android users. Will Verduzco is the Portal Administrator for the XDA-Developers Portal. He has been addicted to mobile technology since the HTC Wizard. But starting with the Nexus One, his gadget love affair shifted to Google's little green robot. He is also a Johns Hopkins University graduate in neuroscience and is now currently studying to become a physician. View willverduzco's posts and articles here.
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