If you've got one of those shiny new Android Wear watches to fiddle around with, you've probably noticed the sad state of custom watch faces. There are a few already in the Play Store, but they often don't work right. Google has finally provided an update for developers on what they should do about custom watch faces. Basically – don't make them yet.

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All the custom watch faces we have right now are basically hacks that are using workarounds to show you the time. According to Google developer advocate Wayne Piekarski, Google is working on a new API for custom faces that should be ready soon, but in the meantime developers are advised to hold off. There are currently issues with the way custom watch faces interact with the stream, the location of status indicators, ambient mode rendering, and of course the taller peek cards cover most of the face. Apps like WearFaces are rapidly evolving, but it's all for naught until the necessary tools are released. Developers won't have access to the shorter peek cards and other tools until the API is released.

So when is it happening? Piekarski says the basic tools are coming soon, but the full vision for the watch face API won't be ready until Wear is migrated to the L release this fall. Until Google gives developers something to work with, Piekarski suggests watch faces should be published only to Google Play beta channels.

[+Matias Duarte]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • Kyle Wiggers

    Seems like a huge oversight.

    • Inquizitor

      It is. As a developer working on Wear stuff right now, I'm pretty angry that they missed releasing a huge part of the platform. Right now Wear seems like more of a beta platform than anything Google's pushed out in a long time.

      • Matt

        Nexus Q 2: Electric Boogaloo. Just kidding, I imagine it'll get a lot better a few months after release, but even the Chromecast was majorly lacking at release. This release strategy of "push it out first, we'll figure out the details later" is hardly new territory for Google.

        • Inquizitor

          I guess the difference I see between Wear and the Chromecast was that Chromecast initially released as a product first with a few service partners, with the promise to open up the Google Cast platform at a later date. With Wear, they had an initial preview release with the promise of a "full" release of hardware and platform/SDK later, but then changed their minds and rushed out the watches to the public with a half-baked SDK. But you're right, in general Google is far too eager to just throw crap out there before really formalizing anything about it. The most frustrating part is when they then scratch their heads wondering why no one's buying or developing for it.

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        • yaboy

          Exactly. You can only get the hardware right one time. Software can always be updated/upgraded

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  • Hsanchez957

    It's a shame Google just couldn't push this off a little longer until it was in a more polished state.

  • Matt

    "As we work on finalizing the API, we would suggest not posting your apps publicly to Google Play until there is a stable, published API (we’d suggest using Alpha or Beta channels, available through the Play Developer Console, in the meantime)."

    They're not saying you shouldn't create custom watch faces completely until the API is done. They're saying to leave that stuff for people who know they're alpha/beta testing and to avoid the kind of negative feedback that comes with putting it in the main Play Store (e.g., "my battery is draining like crazy, 1 star", "Takes 5 seconds longer than regular watch face to open the app, 1 star"). All that stuff can be sorted out with the API, but for now it makes sense to leave custom watch faces for users who know what they're using isn't feature complete.

  • brararsh

    So best thing is not to buy a smartwatch at this time as it's in a very early state, things will change dramatically before getting a high maturity level.

    • Lars Jeppesen


  • SpiderDice

    Or you can just put the watch in Mute mode and everything works great!

    • remister

      That's what I've been doing seeing all these beautiful watch faces.

  • Alex Flynn

    Dammit Google, this should have been one of the first things in the Wear SDK

    • Keg Man

      one of the first things I would do is see what faces I have to pick from. Then, very likely change it. I'm blown away to read this wasn't easily modified.

  • Lexster

    A main reason people want a smart watch is to get custom faces. Look at Live Wallpapers. They're a booming android industry because people like changing the way their main interface looks. What a huge oversight on Google's part to not have this ready at launch...

    • mgamerz

      It's a huge draw for the pebble. I love having a weather one and one I can change to the text-version of a clock (Twelve Twenty)

  • Alex Hernandez

    Unlike a lot of the other comments, I don't think android wear was released to early. If anything, the Sony watches were. I have a galaxy gear live, and I love it. It does everything I expected it to do. Does it have more potential? Sure, but so did all versions of android. It doesn't mean you shouldn't release it to the market. I have a completely workable and useful smart watch on my wrist.

  • mgamerz

    Stay classy google. Releasing things before they are done.

  • Kesey

    Maybe this is part of the reason why the 360 isn't out yet? No way the 360 launches without devs having the ability to create custom watch faces.

    • MindFever

      No,that's not the reason. First of all the round display is a problem because you can't make a fully round display easily with acurrent tech...demo devices all had a black straight border in the bottom of the screen which looks absolutely ugly. Then there's the design and production...takes a while with a watch like that.

  • blindexecutioner

    Lol, they didn't have this complete before release? Very amateur of them...

  • http://www.bordersweather.co.uk/ Andy J

    I keep seeing all these people who are surprised that there is no API for custom faces - despite the fact Google always said before the watches were even physically available that there would be NO ability to make custom watchfaces at launch.

    • MindFever

      No,we are surprised Google didn't make the api available sooner...how the fuck does this make it all right ?

  • Garrett

    Wanting to be fashionably late perhaps?

  • Hans Koenig

    We simply could not wait either. Please check our custom watch face for Android Wear:

  • Oriol