Developers can finally make custom Tiles for Wear OS smartwatches

Developers can finally make custom Tiles for Wear OS smartwatches

Google has announced developers can finally create their own custom Tiles for Wear OS devices. The search giant initially released the Tiles feature in 2019 as a way for users to see information at a glance, but only first-party apps from Google or OEMs had access to the feature.

Google said that the Jetpack Tiles library is in alpha, enabling developers to create custom Tiles on Wear OS smartwatches. These custom Tiles will then become available to users this Spring when Google rolls out the corresponding Wear OS platform update, the company said.

“Tiles can be designed for many use cases, like tracking the user’s daily activity progress, quick-starting a workout, starting a recently played song, or sending a message to a favorite contact,” Google said. “While apps can be immersive, Tiles are fast-loading and focus on the user’s immediate needs. If the user would like more information, Tiles can be tapped to open a related app on the watch or phone for a deeper experience.”

Developers can start building their first Tiles in the Android Studio as part of their Wear OS application. Google said you can start by adding the Wear OS Tiles dependencies. You can view the instructions right here.

Google also shared a list of best practices for creating Tiles for Wear OS.

  • Tiles are meant for glanceable information that users can read in a matter of seconds. Display only the most important content with clear information hierarchy.
  • To safeguard the user’s battery, avoid elements that require frequent re-rendering.
  • Save highly interactive experiences for your activities. However, you can link into those activities from your Tile.
  • Avoid text like “x minutes ago” or “in x minutes” for past or future events as this requires frequent updates. Instead, display the actual start or end time or use a statement like “in the past.”
  • Avoid long-running asynchronous work when providing a Tile’s layout and/or resources. Your Tile code should execute quickly.
  • Consider allowing the user to tap on Tiles to learn more and take action in an overlay, where there is support for rich interactivity and the user can scroll for more information.
  • If you have a large app that supports the user with multiple tasks, consider creating a Tile for each task. For example a fitness app might have a Goals Tile, and a Workout Activity Tile.

In the past, developers managed to successfully create Tiles through an unofficial API. But relying on an unofficial API is risky business, which is why today’s news is so exciting. Hopefully, it means we’ll see developers jumping on board to bring new Tiles to Wear OS.

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Brandon Russell
Brandon Russell

Brandon's love of technology can be traced back to his childhood, when he would obsessively watch Back to the Future. Since then he's followed the industry and its many innovations, from handheld consoles to powerful smartphones. He's still waiting on a hoverboard.