Google’s massive Android Wear update brings a watch face API and tons of improvements

Some of the stunning watch faces coming to Android Wear. Photo: Google

Some of the stunning watch faces coming to Android Wear. Photo: Google

Custom watch faces for Android Wear devices have long been a thing, but they’ve never officially been supported with a proper watch face API. That’s changing with a major Android Wear update that Google is going to be rolling out to users over the next week. The search giant has even partnered up with some big names to demonstrate just how pretty custom faces can be.

Rather than just applying a skin to your watch like previous custom faces have, the new breed will have a much greater level of functionality and freedom. Google’s new API allows custom faces to access and integrate things like the weather, your calendar appointments, data from the various sensors inside your watch, and even data from specific apps.

For instance, a watch face designed by Specialized for the LG G Watch R doesn’t just display the time, but also the weather and wind speed, and sunrise and sunset times. Another face designed by Surfline displays local tide information, wave forecasts and conditions, and wind speed and directions.

Many others are much more simplistic, however; faces designed by the creators of Pac-man, Plants vs. Zombies, and Despicable Me simply show the time above beautiful backgrounds. All faces will be available from Google Play, and they’ll have their own section to make them easy to find.

Proper custom watch face support isn’t the only big thing that’s coming with this Android Wear update; Google has also made some major changes and improvements to existing features.

When you dismiss cards on your device, you’ll now see an undo button that will allow you to bring them back within 5 seconds — much like the undo button that appears when you dismiss Gmail notifications on your smartphone or tablet. There are also two new operation modes called Sunlight and Theater.

Sunlight mode temporarily maximises display brightness to help you see the time and other information when you’re outside, while Theater turns the display off completely and mutes all notifications, so that your watch cannot disturb you or anyone else when you’re in the cinema.

If your watch is paired with a smartphone running Lollipop, you’re also going to get much greater control over notifications. You can either see all notifications like you do now, no notifications at all, or you can pick and choose which apps have the ability to send stuff to your Android Wear device.

Accessing the menu on your device will also be much easier; rather than tapping the display and then swiping down from the voice command screen, the two will be combined, so you’ll instantly see the menu and have the ability to speak to your watch should you need to.

Google has also baked lots of other small improvements into this release, which is the biggest we’ve seen for Android Wear so far. The company says that both the Android Wear update and the changes to Google Play will be rolled out over the next week, so if you don’t already see them, you will very soon.