The 10 Best Tips and Tricks for Wear OS

Your Android Wear 2.0 smartwatch can do cool stuff when you know what to do

Wear OS 2.0 is Google's smartwatch operating system, and it powers a lot of the best smartwatches on the market. It represents a significant improvement over the older Android Wear operating system, and you can use it with Android phones and iPhones. With the right tips and tricks, you can accomplish things, like listening to music, on your smartwatch without needing your phone.

While Wear OS is easy to use on a basic level, it has many interesting features and options. To help you get the most out of your smartwatch, we compiled a list of the 10 best tips and tricks for Wear OS.

Person asking Google Assistant for their agenda on their Wear OS watch
Lifewire / Miguel Co
01
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Add New Watch Faces

Change watch faces in Wear OS 2.0.

One of the best things about smartwatches is that you can customize the watch face. You aren't locked into a particular look, so you can prioritize any specific information or aesthetic style that you want.

Basic watch faces only show the time. However, you can get watch faces for Wear OS that display weather information, the number of steps you took, notes about appointments, and your heart rate.

Here's how to change the watch face:

  1. Tap the watch face. Keep your finger pressed down until the watch vibrates.
  2. Swipe left and right to view the available watch faces.
  3. Tap a watch face to use it, or tap see more watch faces to see other options.

In addition to the faces that came with the smartwatch, you can download new ones from Google Play. There are also Android apps that allow you to design a watch face from scratch.

02
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Find and Install New Apps

Google Play Store on Wear OS 2.0.

When you turn on your smartwatch the first time, you'll find that it comes with some basic apps preinstalled. These apps provide enough functionality to make the watch usable, but these only scratch the surface of what a smartwatch can do.

Two easy ways to get new Wear OS apps on a watch are to download apps directly from Google Play or sideload apps from your phone. There are more complicated options, but you can get most of the apps you need through these two methods.

Here's how to use Google Play to download apps on your smartwatch:

  1. Press the side button or the crown button, depending on the design of the watch.
  2. Tap Play Store.
  3. Navigate to the app you want, and tap Install.

The Wear OS version of Google Play is streamlined to make it easier to discover new apps. Here's what the different options are for:

  • Magnifying glass icon: Tap this to search for a specific app.
  • Recommended for you: This section includes popular apps that Google thinks you will enjoy.
  • Watch faces we love: This is the easiest way to discover new watch faces.
  • Featured apps: This section includes highly rated Wear OS apps that Google chose to promote.
  • Essentials for Wear OS: Some important Wear OS apps are included in this section. When you first get your smartwatch, check this out.
  • Track your workout: If you want to use your smartwatch as a fitness band, you'll need the apps in this section.
  • Streaming audio: Smartwatches can pair with Bluetooth headphones. You can use the headphones to stream audio, such as music and podcasts. This section includes some great apps to help with that.
  • Get it done: Apps that increase your productivity are found in this section.
  • It's play time: There aren't many games available for Wear OS 2.0, but you'll find most of the best ones in this section.

The other easy way to get new apps on a smartwatch is to sideload apps from your phone. Some apps, like Sleep as Android, can be installed on a watch only with this method. Here's how to do it:

  1. Install an app on your phone that has a Wear OS 2.0 version or component.
  2. Tap the side button or crown button on the watch.
  3. Tap Play Store.
  4. Scroll down to the Apps on your phone section.
  5. Tap the app you want to sideload.
  6. Tap Install.
03
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Pin Your Favorite Apps

Pinned apps in Wear OS 2.0.

Smartwatch screens are smaller than phone screens, making it difficult to navigate long lists of installed apps. Apps temporarily move to the top of the list when you use one, making it easier to access anything you used recently.

If there are apps that you use regularly, pin those apps. Pinning an app on a smartwatch moves it to the top of the list permanently, so you'll never have to scroll through the list to find it.

Here's how to pin an app on Wear OS 2.0:

  1. Tap the side button or crown button to open the app list.
  2. Locate the app you want to pin.
  3. Tap the icon and hold your finger in place.
  4. The app moves to the top of the list, and a star appears next to the icon.

To unpin an app, tap its icon and hold your finger in place. The app returns to its original place on the list, and the star disappears.

04
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Change the Keyboard

The keyboard selection menu displayed on a Wear OS watch.

Wear OS comes with three default input methods: Google's basic Wear OS keyboard, handwriting, and voice. The basic keyboard is functional enough, but typing on a small screen can be difficult (some characters are left out of the main keyboard).

If you want to try a different keyboard, there are several free keyboards available on Google Play. You can switch back and forth between keyboards any time you like.

Here's how to change the keyboard on Wear OS 2.0:

  1. Install a new keyboard.
  2. From the main watch face, swipe down.
  3. Tap the gear icon > Personalization > Input methods > Manage keyboards.
  4. Select each keyboard you want to use.

After you complete these easy steps, your new keyboard, or keyboards, are available. When you use an app that requires a keyboard, press and hold the keyboard icon to display a list of available keyboards. Select the one you want to use, and it will be the new default keyboard on your watch.

Here are some free keyboards you can try out:

05
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Write Messages Without the Keyboard

How to use handwriting on Wear OS.

If typing on a tiny watch screen isn't your thing, there are two ways to write messages and enter other text without using an on-screen keyboard. Wear OS 2.0 includes a built-in handwriting-recognition feature. It can also transcribe spoken messages.

When you need to enter text into your smartwatch, it provides you with the option to choose an input method. When you see this choice, that's your opportunity to use the handwriting or transcription input methods.

Here's how to use the handwriting feature in Wear OS 2.0:

  1. Launch any app that requires text input.
  2. When prompted to select an input method, tap and hold the keyboard icon.
  3. Tap English Google Handwriting.
  4. Tap the keyboard icon again.
  5. Use your finger to write on the touchscreen. The screen scrolls slowly to the left, allowing you to write entire words.

If you prefer to use your voice instead of the keyboard or handwriting system on your smartwatch:

  1. Launch any app that requires text input.
  2. When prompted to select an input method, tap the microphone icon.
  3. When you see speak now, say your message out loud.
  4. The smartwatch transcribes the message.
  5. If the message is correct, tap the checkmark.
06
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Control Your Watch With Your Voice

Google Voice displayed in Wear OS 2.0.

Wear OS 2.0 understands voice commands, and you can use it with Google Assistant. You can even activate it with the OK Google phrase you use with Assistant on your phone. Enabling that particular feature can drain the battery in a smartwatch quickly.

To access Google Assistant on a smartwatch:

  1. Press and hold the side button or crown of the smartwatch.
  2. When the Google Assistant microphone icon appears, say a command or ask a question.

If you ask Google Assistant, "What can you do?" it provides a list of useful commands and questions to use on your smartwatch. Here are some things that Assistant can do in Wear OS 2.0:

  • Send text messages, initiate phone calls, and send messages using compatible apps like WhatsApp. Try these commands: Send a text, Call.
  • Provide you with directions. Try these commands: Get directions, Is there traffic to work.
  • Help with productivity. Try these commands: What is my agenda today, set a reminder, set a timer.
  • Access fitness functionality. Try these commands: Track my run, what's my step count, what's my heart rate.

To see a full list of available commands, ask Google Assistant what it can do, scroll to the bottom of the list, and select See more you can do.

From the main Google Assistant screen, you can also access a limited number of options by tapping the Settings icon. If you want to save battery power, this is the menu where you can turn off OK Google detection.

07
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Use Google Pay With Your Watch

Google Pay on an Android smartwatch.

Google Pay is a service that allows you to pay for things with an app on your phone. If your smartwatch supports it, you can leave your phone in your pocket and pay with your watch.

This feature is available only on Android smartwatches that include a built-in near field communication (NFC) chip. If your watch is supported, it should have Google Pay installed when you buy it. Google Pay is available only in the United States, the UK, Italy, Spain, Australia, Canada, Poland, Russia, and Germany.

To use Google Pay on your watch, add cards to the app on your watch. Here's how to do that:

  1. Open Google Pay on the phone.
  2. Tap Get started.
  3. Follow the on-screen instructions to add a card. If you have a card on your phone, re-add it to the watch.
  4. After you complete the process, the card is available.

When you visit a store, restaurant, or another establishment that supports Google Pay, you can pay with your watch. Here's how to do it:

  1. Open Google Pay on the watch.
  2. Hold the watch over the payment terminal.
  3. When you feel the watch vibrate, or hear it make a sound, check the screen.
  4. If asked to choose between credit and debit, choose credit.
08
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Block Notifications From Specific Apps

Disable Wear OS notifications.

Displaying notifications from your phone on your watch is convenient. Still, it can also create a nuisance and drain the battery. If you want to receive only important notifications on your watch, such as emails and text messages, block notifications from specific apps.

To accomplish this, launch the Wear OS app on your phone and change some settings. Here's how to do it:

  1. Open Wear OS on the phone.
  2. Scroll down to the Setting section.
  3. Tap Notifications.
  4. Tap Change watch notifications.
  5. Select the apps you want to receive notifications from.
09
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Adjust the Settings to Prolong Battery Life

How to save battery life in Wear OS 2.0.

Smartwatches are better than regular watches in almost every respect, but fall flat in the battery life department. The best smartwatches, with the most powerful batteries, can't compare to traditional watches in terms of battery life, because smartwatches take more power to run.

If you have trouble with battery life in your Android smartwatch, fully drain the battery, fully charge it, and then fully drain it again. Going through several of these full discharge cycles can improve battery life, especially if your watch had battery problems from the moment you bought it.

If you want to prolong the battery life further, take advantage of these tips and tricks to minimize battery usage in Wear OS 2.0:

  • Try a different watch face: Some watch faces have more going on than others, and that extra information and activity come with a cost in terms of battery use. Switch to a basic watch face for a day, and see if that helps.
  • Disable the always-on screen: Having the watch face visible at all times is cool, but some smartwatches can't handle the battery drain. To turn off this feature, swipe down, tap the gear icon, tap display, then tap always-on screen.
  • Turn off tilt-to-wake: This is a cool feature because it allows you to check your watch by flipping your wrist. But the watch can turn on when you don't want it to, which can drain the battery. To disable tilt-to-wake, swipe down, tap the gear icon, tap gestures, then tap tilt-to-wake.
  • Shut the screen off manually: When you're done looking at your watch, place your palm against the watch face. The watch vibrates, and the screen shuts off.
  • Lower the screen brightness: Set the screen brightness to the lowest level that allows you to read the watch, and adjust it up from there as needed. To adjust brightness, swipe down, and then tap the sun icon.
  • Disable unnecessary notifications: Every time your phone pushes a notification to your watch, it uses battery power. To save power, turn off the notifications you don't need.
  • Uninstall unnecessary apps: If you notice a sudden power drain after installing an app, temporarily uninstall it. If that fixes the power drain, the app may do something that drains the battery. Either leave the app uninstalled, or contact the app developer for help.
10
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Listen to Music Offline

Nav Music Wear OS app

With Wear OS 2.0, you can listen to music on your smartwatch. Most smartwatches have built-in speakers, with varying levels of quality from one device to the next. You can also pair Bluetooth headphones or earbuds.

If you use the Nav Music app, it's easy to download songs to your Wear OS device and stream music to Bluetooth-equipped headphones without an internet connection. Leave your phone at home when you head out on a jog and listen to music.