Last Updated: July 9th, 2014

Google's hot new item, Android Wear, is barely out of the box, but there's already a pretty big issue deserving of a place in our Bug Watch series. The initial rush of native Android Wear apps is starting to roll into the Play Store as developers get their hands dirty with the freshly released SDK. So far, most of these apps have been given away at no cost, but the few that have attempted to charge a fee have run into a wall. It seems that paid apps on the Play Store are incapable of installing Android Wear components to a device.


The Problem

Unlike most Android devices, the app installation experience for Android Wear could be described as very codependent. Instead of pulling up a bunch of Play Store listings on a screen barely larger than your thumb, Google has organized it so the apps on your phone will install their own micro-sized companions to your watch. When a regular Android app is downloaded from the Play Store, it is checked for a Wear-compatible app, which is then installed over Bluetooth to the paired watch. The process is completely automated, and aside from manually side-loading apks, it's currently the only supported way to install apps to Wear.


Paid apps introduce a complication in the form of App Encryption. First announced at Google I/O 2012 alongside Jelly Bean 4.1, App Encryption was added to the Play Store to encode paid apps with a device-specific key, making them more difficult to crack or transplant by would-be pirates. Despite some early issues that lead Google to temporarily take App Encryption offline, it has gone mostly unnoticed since it was re-enabled. That is, until now. It seems the Android Wear install process runs into a road block with paid apps because it doesn't know how to extract the file of the encrypted apk. Since the installer fails to recognize the payload, it assumes there is nothing to install and silently aborts. This behavior appears to match another known issue that occurs if the Wear app is compressed more than once before it is published.

Information about this behavior began to surface over the last couple of days from a few different sources - most notably after the release of an app called Phone Finder by redthunda69 and a custom watch face by Daniel Ward (the issue was diagnosed by Kevin Barry of Tesla Coil).

Fixes And Workarounds

Since this bug was exposed less than 48 hours ago, which happened to be during a weekend (also a holiday weekend in the United States), it's not surprising that Google hasn't made any public comments regarding this bug. Still, it's likely that a fix will become top priority. When a fix is rolled out, it's likely that it will be in the form of an update to either the Google Play Store, Google Play Services, or the Android Wear companion app. Depending on the complexity of a fix and how quickly Google became aware of the problem, updates could be ready to roll out in as little as a few hours, or it may take several days. It might be possible, albeit very unlikely, that a server-side fix could set things right without changing anything on our devices.

Determined developers should also be able to work around this issue by releasing a free app to the store containing the Wear micro app, and then collect money using either in-app purchases or selling an unlock app. Neither of these solutions are ideal, but they should be suitable workarounds to avoid automatic encryption by the Play Store. In the interests of saving some development time, it might be best to wait for an official response from Google before moving forward with one of these options.


Ok, Google kinda blew it with this one. Malfunctioning paid apps are a pretty huge oversight, and a few of Google's people are probably going to be a bit embarrassed by this, but it's nothing to get angry about. Only a handful of paid Wear apps even exist and the discovery was made very quickly. This bug is just another sign that a few things in the Android Wear release were rushed and may not have been fully tested before launch. At least it was discovered before most people will even receive the first run of shipments.

Until things are worked out, it's probably best to avoid spending money on any apps specifically designed for Wear. Hopefully, we'll see something by the end of the day, but we should be prepared to wait for quite a while. Keep checking this page for updates, we'll be posting new information as we receive it!

Update [July 8th]: Google has posted a workaround to the Android Developers Blog and announced plans to update Android Studio and the Wear developer documentation in the near future. Good job on the quick turnaround!

Cody Toombs
Cody is a Software Engineer and Writer with a mildly overwhelming obsession with smartphones and the mobile world. If he’s been pulled away from the computer for any length of time, you might find him talking about cocktails and movies, sometimes resulting in the consumption of both.

  • e.fr

    Eagerly waiting for the new layout of play store on the web and the new play store app.

    • ddpacino

      In one of the I/O sessions, I think we got a small taste of it, albeit incomplete. I cannot wait to see the Material update across all Google services and apps.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        We'll have something to say about that soon.

        • NameIsNick

          HOW SOON IS SOON ?

          PLS BACK ANSWER!!!

          • Serge Cebrian

            SOON BACKANSWER?????

        • Calvin Uijlen

          Waiting full of excitement here Artem :)

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            Most likely going live tomorrow.

  • Ruslan Nurislamov


    • nawa


  • Thomas

    You had one job Google!

    • Colin Richardson

      Yes... You have 145 one jobs to do Google!

  • http://mekakiwi.blogspot.com.br/ ED-Z が あらわれた!

    One more reason for me just strap my X10 Mini Pro on my wrist.

  • Joel Anderson

    This is incredibly frustrating. I've had to send out a working APK by email to everyone who's purchased my app, and I've seen several requested refunds as a result. That's money lost, no matter how little. Very disappointing to see such a glaring defect in such a large product launch.

    • Kylecore

      Why didn't you just upload it somewhere and send everyone a link?

      • Joel Anderson

        Either way, I'd have to send it out to everyone who purchased the app. And I'm sort of afraid that would get shared more easily.

        • Kylecore

          Ahhh well thats valid for sure. Here's hoping some of those emailed don't upload it themselves!

  • danifeb

    do they test stuffs before put them in the market?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?

    • Sorian

      Simple oversight since developers just got the Wear SDK not too long ago and fewer are paid apps.

      • Mike Reid

        Google (ie, some employee) messed up the test plan if they forgot to include paid app tests.

        Still less $ than the primary ad business, but google makes a LOT these days from paid apps, in app purchases, subs, etc. Great revenue deserves great testing efforts.

    • Nathan Walters


  • Thomas Wong

    Bug Watch... haha... nice pun!

  • Rocker

    I honestly cant see any function for my samsung watch i would be willing to pay for.The stock software already does what i need

    • mlj11

      Meh, that's what a lot of people used to say about their phones too.

      • Rocker

        Nah i see a need for the phone but till watches advance battery wise i can see it being just watch faces

  • Lars L.

    Is that the reason runtastic pro isn't working on my g watch?

  • Taylor

    So is Wear essentially in beta mode until the 360 is out? Because that's what it feels like.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

      Well, it's been less than 2 weeks since Wear entered the world... So, yeah, it's basically a beta. Don't get me wrong, I really like the experience with Android Wear. It's the first smartwatch that actually feels like a thing worthy of being a product. Prior to this, everything felt like a bad hack. However, the launch software and hardware show all of the signs of being rushed, and there are plenty of gaps that desperately need to be filled.

      I wouldn't say that the Moto 360 will mark the end of any beta phase, per se, but I certainly get the impression that the G Watch and Gear Live were released prematurely so we could catch these kinds of issues sooner rather than later. There might have also been competitive motivations to get the ball rolling early; certainly with Apple, and possibly with Samsung.

  • https://play.google.com/store/apps/developer?id=iWizard Bikram Agarwal

    "Despite some early issues that lead Google to temporarily take App Encryption offline, it has gone mostly unnoticed since it was re-enabled."

    Umm.. No. At least not for theme developers. The app encryption of paid apps has always broken theme apps (e.g. icon packs / uccw skins / Zooper skins) since Kitkat. Developers had to come up with alternate ways to dance around the issue. For icon packs, appfilter.xml and drawable.xml had to be moved from assets folder to xml folder and launcher developers had to make changes in their launcher code. UCCW/Zooper skin developers had to either package apk inside the apk uploaded to play store (which kinda breaks play store rule, depending on whom you ask) or send apk in mail to users.

    • Mike Reid

      Google doesn't like theme competition ?

  • slurivariv

    Just wondering if anyone's tried this method: http://developer.android.com/training/wearables/apps/packaging.html#AssetCompression ? I would think that would stop the bug from happening, but I have no way of testing it.

  • Renita Ghosh

    Oh crap. Pay for an app and then deal with its malfunctioning - how annoying seriously! That's why I put my trust on free apps - there's this awesome chat app that I downloaded for free from google store recently - its has all the great qualities of whatsapp, snapchat and facebook without any of their privacy issues. The best thing is it is always free to use! Yipeee!

  • http://plus.google.com/+WaynePiekarski Wayne Piekarski

    We now have a workaround to enable paid apps that support Android Wear on the Play Store. In this blog post, we describe the necessary steps to get this working, and information about the problem. http://android-developers.blogspot.com/2014/07/update-on-android-wear-paid-apps.html

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

      Thank you for coming by Wayne!

      We've posted about the workaround, and I've updated this article with information and links.

  • Josh Kasten

    Google has a blog post with a solution that developers can use to fix the issue for their customers.

    Google+ Post:

    I will be updating my Quick Calculator for Wear with the fix soon.

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