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April 18, 2017

Android Wear 2.0 Complications are great. It’s a shame we can’t use them

by John_A

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I’m not into ‘complicated’.

Despite my penchant for detailed themes with lot of steps, I’m really a girl who likes things to work and work easily. When I got an LG Watch Style and started browsing for watch faces, I was excited to finally have Complications, easily customizable watch face features that can display system statuses like Battery level or pull data from any number of apps, such as currently playing music, your next calendar appointment, or a shortcut to your most-used app.
We had seen complications implemented by individual developers before, but they had all worked differently, and I was quite looking forward to things finally working the same across every watch face. I was excited to have the same complications available to all watch faces rather than just the options a developer included in its own.

I soon ran into a problem: Android Wear 2.0 complications have only made the situation worse.

In a perfect world, when Android Wear 2.0 was launched, developers would’ve switched their interactive data inputs from their own “self-made complications” to the system version. Developers who never bothered with complications before would enable a complications layout for their faces so that users could set what they wanted and be on their way. This was my dream.

It hasn’t really happened.

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More complex build-your-own-watchface apps, like WatchMaker Premium and Watch Face – Minimal & Elegant, have tried to implement complications to varying degrees of success. On WatchMaker, you can add 2.0 complications to your face, but only on the watch itself, after you’ve built everything else in the main app on the phone, making it hard to size elements properly in relation to them. On Minimal & Elegant, I tried implementing complications, but they didn’t seem to work, so I eventually relented and reverted to their robust, proprietary interactive actions. Other complex watch faces, like tha Phlash’s, haven’t implemented 2.0 complications at all yet, still adapting their faces for it.

Then we come to more simple and more artistic watch faces, like Virginia Poltrack’s Fat Russell watch faces and Glow by Stephanie Carls. Most of these faces forewent any complications in previous versions of Android Wear, and they’ve yet to adopt them now. This is a real shame because by offloading extraneous information/functions to Android Wear 2.0’s complications, artistic face-makers could spend more time building beautiful watch faces and less time crafting complicated inter-app functions.

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Android Wear 2.0 is still in the process of rolling out to current devices and arriving with new 2.0 devices like the LG Watch Style, Huawei Watch 2 Classic and more watches coming this summer, but we need more faces that take advantage of complications. I’m sure they’re coming, but they need to come faster. Well-placed and well-executed complications can elevate a watch face from something beautiful to a functional masterpiece, and asking us to choose between a cute face or an ugly one with complications is a no-win scenario for everyone.

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Even more than needing more faces with complications, we need more standardization in how complications are implemented and advertised by watch face apps. Different watch faces use different menus for setting and configuring complications, which can make them hard to find and set on some watch faces. The steps above, for instance, don’t match how WatchMaker or most third-party apps set complications. In addition, searching for “watch face complications” on Google Play doesn’t turn up many useful results apart from a handful of relatively boring watch faces from a handful of devs, in part because watch faces were using the term complications before the official function came in Wear 2.0.

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Complications on Android Wear are just really complicated right now, and they need to be uncomplicated.

Android Wear

  • Everything you need to know about Android Wear 2.0
  • LG Watch Sport review
  • LG Watch Style review
  • These watches will get Android Wear 2.0
  • Discuss Android Wear in the forums!

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