In less than a month, Google will introduce an important change to Wear OS. This will make it more difficult to install third-party watch apps without the Google Play Store, bringing the platform closer to the Apple Watch model.
As first reported by Android Police, the upcoming change will effect developers more than regular users of the platform. The latter typically go through the Play Store to install software to their devices. But it does mean that adding unofficial and unapproved apps will be much harder without reverting to developer tools.
This was revealed in an email sent to the Google developer community. The changes will be effective from March 10th.
You can read the email in full below.
In essence, Google is making a transition from the previous app model which allowed developers to share their apps more easily. It is a model which allows smartwatch apps to be bundeled together with their smartphone counterparts, i.e. Wear OS code to Android apps. Users are able to transfer software to their wearables by phone via the Play Store -> Apps on your phone section.
Google has upgraded this recently with Android Wear 2.0 which moved to a standalone app model, something akin to the App Store for the Apple Watch. The on-watch Play Store allows users to download and install apps. However, software that used the legacy model was not easily discoverable.
Now the original app model is being depreciated. It means developers and users will have to go via the official route. The other option is to turn to tools meant for developers such as the Android Debug Bridge (ADB).
According to the letter, Google’s motivation is not to tighten control. Instead, the move is motivated to widen the reach of the Play Store to incorporate all apps. Plus the change reduces excessive bloat to the APK on users phones, some of which don’t even own a Wear OS watch.
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In a sense, you could say this reinforces the search giant’s commitment to the platform. It may even have something to do with the Fitbit acquisition which went through a few weeks ago. We are yet to see what happens on the operating system front, considering that Fitbit has one of these as well for their smartwatches.
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