Smart watches are great. They have a lot of other useful features which an ordinary watch cannot offer. In addition, they come in a lot of different sizes and shapes to fit everyone’s wrist. I have been wearing smart watches for a long period of time, from the Samsung Gear to the Moto 360 and the LG G Watch R, I experienced a lot of improvements in terms of system stability as well as in other aspects. However, these watches are designed for specific platforms, Samsung Gear for only the Samsung devices, and the Android Wear ones for only Android.
I have been a long-term iPhone user. In the latest updates, I am able to pair those Android Wear watches with my iPhone 6. However, features are very limited: The only thing I could do is to receive messages and notifications from my iPhone. That’s all I could do - no 3rd party apps, very limited watch faces to choose from. In this article, I will explain step by step on how you can install 3rd party Android Wear apps directly onto your smart watch even if you are paired with an iPhone.
It will involve the use of the Android development software as well as the handling of source codes. I will try to make it as simple as possible and I am sure that you will understand the steps and successfully install apps, games, and other 3rd party watch face onto your smart watch.
About the Author
Jordan Fung is a 13-year-old maker and programmer from Hong Kong. He is a maker enthusiast and has been well known worldwide for his passion for contributing to open source software and hardware development. With his couple of projects published online, he has gained worldwide attention and compliment from international corporations and many other online and printed medias. He has also been listed as one of the "12 young makers to watch in 2016" by Atmel, a leading manufacturer of electronics, in recognition of his contribution to the maker community. He is also the winner of other local and international competitions.
Currently, all the apps for Android Wear are being downloaded from the Google Play Store to the phone, then to the watch. However, due to restrictions of iOS, even though we can pair the watch with an iPhone, the Store is not available.
In addition, a watch can only pair with one phone at the same time. A factory reset is required to pair with a new phone. Therefore, even if you pair the watch with an Android device and install the apps, you cannot use them when pairing with an iPhone. This results in no way to install 3rd party apps.
However, with the method I introduce below, you will be able to install 3rd party apps onto your watch.
Method of Installation
The way we are going to install 3rd party Android Wear applications onto our watch paired with iPhone is to first obtain the source code of an app. The source code package contains all the files and information we need for installation. However, not all app’s source code package are available for download, only those apps which we call “open-sourced” will upload their source code packages onto the internet. In this article, I will use the WearableChess app as an example.
This is the flow of the installation:
- Setup computer environment with the necessary software.
- Setup Android Wear smart watch for installation.
- Obtain and setup open source software package.
- Install app onto the smart watch.
We will directly install those 3rd party apps from the computer to the watch, which means, even if your watch is paired with an iPhone, it will still work.
Setup Computer Environment
The first step is to set up our computer with necessary software. The software required is called the Android Studio, which is the official Android development software by Google, but don’t worry - we are not going to involve any kind of programming.
This is the official download page for Android Studio. Simply download the package to install it. For Mac which I am using, simply drag the app to the Applications folder. For Windows, follow the on-screen instructions to install.
Setup Android Wear Smart Watch for Installation
In order to install apps onto your watch, we must enable the Developer mode on the watch first. To do this:
Navigate to the Settings app on your watch. Scroll to the bottom and click on About. In the about page, find Build Number. Click on it a few times until you see a message confirming that you are now in developer mode.
Go back to the Settings, and you will notice that there is a new item called Developer Options. Click on it. Look for the option called ADB Debugging and enable it.
After entering these configurations, connect the watch directly to your computer. There are different ways to connect it to your computer. For the LG G Watch R which I used as an example, there is a dock which allows me to charge as well as to connect to the computer. In such case, simply plug in the USB connector to your computer and wait until the drivers are all being installed if necessary. Note that if your watch only got Wireless Charging but not a physical connection, such as the Moto 360, you might have to purchase additional cables in order to connect it to the computer.
Obtain and Setup Open Source Software Package
There are a number of Open Source apps available for Android Wear. A platform where open source software are often hosted is Github. A list of such apps can be found here. This list does not contain all the open source apps for Android Wear. You can try googling "open source Android Wear app" on the Internet as there are many more of them available. The app that I am going to install is called the WearableChess, which is also available on Github.
Wearable Chess source code package download link:
On a Github page, in order to download a package, click on the Clone or Download dropdown and click Download ZIP. Once you have successfully downloaded it, extract and place the folder on the Desktop or somewhere that is easily accessible.
Then, open up Android Studio. On the welcome screen, click on Open an existing Android Studio project. Select the folder where the source code files are located and wait for it to load. This could take a while depending on the size of the app.
Note that the source code of an Android app is in a folder, do not extract the folder where project files like gradle are in, otherwise, we could not successfully import it to Android Studio.
Install App onto the Smart Watch
Now that we have successfully imported the source code into Android Studio, we can start installing the app. The way we do this is to “pretend” that we are testing out the app on the watch. Normally, users can only install apps from the Google Play Store and transfer it to the watch from the phone. However, this is only available on Android phones as I mentioned before. Did you remember that we just turned on the developer mode? That is how we can load the app onto the watch.
In the Android Studio toolbar at the top, you might see a dropdown with the word mobile. If that is the case, click on it and change to wear otherwise you will not be able to run the app on the watch. Then, click on the green play button right next to the dropdown. On the popup, select your watch from the list and click OK. If you do not see your watch, most likely you have not successfully connected your watch to the computer or the drivers are not being installed successfully. You may need to log on to the manufacturer’s website and download the drivers needed or check the connection between the watch and the computer.
After clicking OK, you will see Gradle Build Running on the bottom of the window. Wait until it is finished. Finally, the app will be opened on your watch!
Now that you have successfully installed the app onto your watch, to open it next time, simply click on it in the Apps Drawer.
This is how you can install 3rd party Android Wear apps on a watch paired with an iPhone and I hope this can bring more smart watch options to iPhone users.
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Written by Jordan Fung
This Article A Comprehensive Guide to Installing 3rd Party Applications onto Android Wear Watch Paired with an iPhone written by Jordan Fung is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Attribution to the author is required when sharing or reposting this article. No commercial use is allowed.