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Tired of other people's priorities?
Android Wear, like Android itself, is a powerhouse of customization. That also means that finding the right fit for your watch can be difficult.
Watch faces are the big thing on Android Wear—the Google Play store is crammed full of them. Some are free, and some cost a buck or two, but they all share one thing in common: they’re only as customizable as the designer felt they need to be.
If you’re tired of searching for the right watch face the absurd number of options can be even more frustrating. Why not just make your own?
Be your own WatchMaker
A number of apps on the Play store have started offering DIY watch faces. I’ve spent some time testing one of them—WatchMaker—which truly enables you to build watches from the ground up.
It’s a free app with a $3.99 premium option. Paying for premium gives you all the watches created by the WatchMaker community and lets you use your own images as the watch face background.
A new watch face starts with a completely blank screen. See the plus sign in the middle left-hand side? Click that to open up all the customization options.
The menu that pops up can be a bit overwhelming, but don’t let that stop you: start experimenting! You can add hands, text, numbers, animated GIFs—you can even set a map of your location as the background of your watch.
The real customization power
It’s all well and good to drop some pre-programmed fields onto a watch face, but you can get most of that stuff from a free download from the Play store. Where WatchMaker really shines is Lua expressions.
Lua is a scripting language that is great at performing simple tasks like those needed for a watch face. Don’t get intimidated if you can’t program, though: WatchMaker comes with a ton of pre-made expressions that will probably take care of your customization needs.
Adding Lua expressions to your watch face
Tap the plus sign on the watch face creation screen to open up the menu, then swipe all the way over to the right. In the bottom corner is the Expression button. Tapping on it will open up a world of options.
I’m a bit of a weather junkie, so I want all the forecast info I can get. Expressions can give you most every bit of weather information you desire, all customizable for the Android Wear face.
Customizing all your bits and bobs
So you’ve added some stuff to your new watch face, and it’s all too big (or small), looks wrong, and is a mess. That’s okay: getting the look you want requires a bit of work. Thankfully it’s not difficult work.
When you add a field to your watch face it shows up below the watch face. Tapping on it will bring up the options for that item. It also highlights it on the watch face so you can drag it around to the position you want.
It's the little things that count
When you have all those fields lined up where you want them it’s time to really make that new watch face shine with tap actions. All the info on your watch face is coming from somewhere, and that somewhere is an app on your watch. You should be able to launch the app with a tap on the watch face, shouldn’t you?
Let’s say you want to open up your agenda with a tap on the day of the week field. Select that object and swipe down all the way to the bottom of the long list of options. Select Tap Actions and you’ll get a nice long list of apps you can open with a tap on your watch face.
Turn all those bits and bobs into app launchers
Turn all those bits and bobs into app launchers
It isn’t just a fixed list of options you can launch with tap actions—you can choose any app installed on your watch or phone to open on command.
Tap actions are what make your watch face truly useful. It’s one thing to get information on your watch face, but it’s a whole other when you can access apps without having to dig through your watch’s app launcher.
Trying to navigate a list of apps on a smartwatch, whether an Apple Watch, Android Wear, or Samsung Gear, is inconvenient at best. At worst it’s a total hassle to navigate such a tiny screen; I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a smartwatch owner who likes to dig through their app drawer.
Send the face to your Android Wear
Once you have your WatchMaker face set up the way you want it’s time to send it to your watch. This is a two-step process the first time you do it.
Start by opening up the Android Wear app on your phone. Open up your list of watch faces and select WatchMaker to set it as the active face.
Switch back over to your WatchMaker app. On the home screen select My Watches, which will bring up a list of all the watch faces you’ve made or added from the WatchMaker library. Tap the one you want and you’ll see the big green Set Watchface button. Tap it, give it a minute to sync, and you’re all set!
Don't be afraid to experiment
Technology is changing a lot, and for some users that can be intimidating. You may worry about breaking something, getting lost in a program, or never quite understanding a new product, but don’t.
I’ve always been an advocate for experimenting with technology: it’s one of the best ways to figure out what works for you. WatchMaker isn’t going to break your Android Wear, or make irrevocable changes, so don’t be afraid to play around with it. You don’t have anything to lose, but you have a whole world of smartwatch functionality to gain!
You can download WatchMaker on Google Play.