Back in early December, Google finally got around to releasing the application program interface (API) for Android Wear watches. Up to that point, app developers and user interface artists were left in the dark about how to get watch faces onto devices like the Moto 360. A few developers, like Facer for example, were winging it, and doing a pretty good job at that.
Now that it’s been almost a month since the API was released, the Play Store is beginning to show signs of life in the watch face category so I spent some time going through the watch faces for my Samsung Gear Live and made a list of my top 7 favorites. Note that these seven picks will look good on a square or rounded watch, but the final three do favor the circular design.
Launched in Toronto back in 2009, co-founders Oleg Gutsol and Evgeny Tchebotarev aimed to make a location online for photographers to create a professional gallery for their work. That website became 500px (pronounced “five hundred pixels”) and since its debut, it now has 2.5 million registered users and touts 10 million active users per month.
Now this month, 500px added a new feature to their mobile app, which will create two watch face options (one digital, one analog) inside of the Google Android Wear app.
There are no settings for these watch faces and they seemingly cycle through your favorite photos list, as well as other photographs seeded by 500px themselves, every time you leave the default screen and come back to it. This could be done by either letting your watch face dim or by pulling up a card and returning to the home screen.
The information overlay on the home screen is simply the time and 500px’s logo.
The pictures are, of course, beautiful. This isn’t Instagram so these are mostly photos from professionals and aspiring photographers.
I would’ve liked to have seen more information on the home screen, like battery life or the local temperature, as well as settings for the watch face, like a photo switching frequency or a change in the color of the text. These options might come in a future update.
The 500px app is free and, if you check it out, remember that this is the main 500px app. It just happens to come with the two watch faces baked in as a side perk.
#2: Alien 3D Watch Face
I discovered the incredible feature of live wallpapers (LWP) on my very first Android phone, so I set out to the Play Store to find a worthy selection. I found Maxelus’ work and I’ve since downloaded nearly every one of his LWP offerings.
Well now you can get one of his LWP apps on your Android Wear watch! It’s called Alien 3D Watch Face and it will kick your watch up a notch.
If you try out this app, you’ll notice that a standalone app did not download to your app drawer. Where is it? It gets integrated right into your Android Wear app’s watch faces menu. To access Alien 3D’s settings, simply select the watch face and touch the gear-like Settings icon that will now be overlayed on the watch face’s image.
Once inside, you will see the option to select six different backgrounds. These backgrounds are animated and they will move relative to your watch, creating a parallax effect.
You can also change the seconds’ icon, as well as the color of various things.
Again, this watch face is new, so I expect there will be more backgrounds and seconds icons over time.
The app can be purchased from the Play Store for $1.19 USD.
#3: Galactic Core Watch Face
In a similar case to the watch face above, this watch face started its life as a regular LWP. Kittehface Software’s Galactic Core LWP has been a long time classic on the Play Store, so it makes sense that they would try and bring that success to Android Wear.
This app also does not create a standalone program in your app drawer. You will find it and its settings inside of the Android Wear app.
The name of the app indicates exactly what you’re going to get: an animated spiral galaxy as your watch face. There are also a number of settings that will let you pick different galaxies and even alter them by inputting your own color choices. There are also options to add further information to your watch face screen, like moon phases.
Similar to Alien 3D’s watch face background, there appears to be a parallax effect on Kittehface’s galaxies.
This app is pretty fleshed out despite it being relatively new. I would like to see other font choices as I was not particularly fond of the ones presently available. Other than that, maybe a bit more space between the lines of information, plus make the information slightly larger. I do have to sometimes squint to see what it says, which is obviously a consequence of an animated background.
This app will run you a fair price of $0.99 USD. Follow the link below to check it out in the Play Store.
#4: Minimal & Elegant
I will admit, this is probably my all-time favorite. It’s simple, clean and pretty customizable. Minimal & Elegant (M&E) is the work of Studio eXtreme and M&E really brings a touch of class to your watch, while not sacrificing a bit of animation in some vain attempt to make your watch not appear to be what it is: a smart watch.
This app, unlike the previous watch faces above, came out before Google released the watch face API, so it still creates a standalone settings app; however, since the Google update, M&E’s settings are now in the Android Wear app like the others, but the download still creates a standalone app. If you open it, it’ll tell you where to go to find the new access point for M&E’s settings. I imagine that this is for users of M&E before the Google update and after a time, once its pre-API users get the message, Studio eXtreme will remove that standalone app.
Back to M&E’s settings: there are options to change the colors, change some of the animation aspects, and even the ability to create a random design timer.
There is almost nothing that I would change about this app. I truly feel like it’s near perfect. When turning on, sometimes the watch face is a little sluggish updating the time, but it’s not too noticeable to me.
M&E will run you $0.99 USD and can be found by following the link below.
#5: Angles Watch Face
This entry and the following two are the ones I mentioned that will favor the circular design. They still looked great on my Samsung Gear Live, but it’s pretty obvious that they would look better on a Moto 360 or LG G Watch R.
FlyingRhinoCMG’s Jose Azua & Marcin Stepien have really designed a great looking timepiece face with Angles Watch Face. I really like the aesthetics and it runs smoothly.
The only real complaint I have about this watch face is its options are extremely limited when it comes to color selection. Almost every other developer allows you to select any hue you want using sliders and a color wheel, and I cannot really see why this would not work with this watch face.
Additionally, I’m somewhat suspicious of FlyingRhinoCMG’s motives in this regard because they have a few entries in the Play Store where they’ve designed one watch face but have different color versions for sale. I’m not going to buy the same watch face twice…
But this watch face app doesn’t have a different colored twin for sale, so no red-marks from me on that matter. I would just like to see the color wheel and sliders like other watch faces out there.
If you have a circular watch, I really think you should try it out. You can snag it from the Play Store for $0.99.
This watch face is also designed by the creators of M&E, Studio eXtreme. This app definitely loaded up with customization options and, as the app’s name suggests, is really designed to have some fun with timekeeping.
The outer ring contains analog elements, while the inner circle is digital. You’ll notice from the images, this watch offers you the ability to set a timer, but if you don’t need anything to count down, you can change this to just display the current time.
This watch face has lots of tweak available in the settings. Colors, lines of text, animation changes, etc. are all there waiting to be tinkered with. Sadly, unlike M&E, color options on this watch face are limited.
I did notice a very distinct bit of lag with the sweeping seconds’ hand. It’s a similar lag to what I experienced with M&E when it first came out, which has since been pretty well resolved via updates, so perhaps this too will be fixed over time. The lag wasn’t significant enough that made it a deal-breaker, though.
This watch face costs the same as M&E, $0.99 USD. See the link below!
#7: Roto 360
The app’s name really hints as to which watch design will look best with it.
Square! Ahem, circle.
Part Mayan calendar, part thermostat, Roto 360 is really quite gorgeous. It almost makes me want to go out and buy a Moto 360 or LG G Watch R.
App developers Gaurav Singh and Krishna Prajapati are no strangers in taking design inspirations from other common instruments. They have two other watch faces that are pretty slick as well. And when you download Roto 360, you get a white and black version as you can see in the picture above.
Roto 360, sadly, does lose some of its luster on my Gear Live. But I knew what I was getting into before I bought it thanks to the app’s name.
There aren’t any settings to modify with this watch. It’s what you see is what you get with this one. I can’t think of any ideas on what someone would want to customize on this watch face, but I think a settings option will probably find its way to the app sometime in the future.
Roto 360 costs $0.99 from the Play Store. It definitely warrants a test drive on your watch.
After looking over these 7 watch faces, I can’t help but be excited to see what new offerings these developers and others will bring us over time. LWP, for example, on our smart watches is genius.
On the topic of LWP, I feel many of you might be concerned about battery life. Smart watches don’t last long as it is, so would an animated watch face kill the battery even quicker? In my experience with these seven, I did not notice any greater power consumption than normal. If there was, it was small enough to escape my observations.
You might have noticed that apps like Facer were not on this list. Facer didn’t really go through much of a change after the API was released and it is still community driven. That’s fine, I love Facer, but the aim of this article was to talk about post-API work that is beginning to appear on the Play Store.
So this weekend, if you have the time, you should definitely play around with these watch faces. Thanks for reading!