Master Google’s Wear OS with these 16 essential tips and tricks

Google’s Wear OS puts everything from notifications to fitness tracking data on your wrist, and though smartwatches — like any new piece of tech — have a learning curve, it’s more accessible and useful than ever before.  However, everyone needs a starting point, so here are some essential Wear OS tips to get the most out of your smartwatch, whether you want to listen to music offline, dim the display, or change the watch face.

Listen to music offline

fossil sport smartwatch news work out

One of the best features of Wear OS is the chance to stream music from the watch to a pair of connected Bluetooth headphones. It means you can leave your phone behind when at the gym or out for a run. It’s a little limited though, and you’ll have to sync songs or playlist to your smartwatch from Google Play Music to listen offline. Ensure your watch is connected to Wi-Fi, then open Play Music and tap the little Download icon next to your chosen song or playlist. It takes a while to sync, so have patience, and don’t do it five minutes before you leave the house.

Install new watch faces

Waer OS tips - install watch faces
Simon Hill / Digital Trends
Simon Hill/Digital Trends

The watch face is the most important part of a smartwatch, and you’ll want to choose one that matches your own style, and the style of the watch. All Wear OS watches come with different watch faces installed, many of which will be branded by the watchmaker, or you can download and install many different third-party ones from Google Play.

Google has a catalog of hand-picked watch faces in the Google Play Store, and you can even access a “Featured Watch Faces” section in the Wear Play Store on your watch. All you need to do is download the app from your phone or watch and it’ll appear as a choice when you’re switching watch faces.

Switch between watch faces

android wear tips and tricks watch faces

You can change the watch face really easily on your watch. Once watch faces are installed, it’s extremely easy to switch between them. Hold down the main screen to show the watch face carousel, then swipe from the left or right to navigate between all of them. If you want to get rid of a watch face, swipe it up or down in this screen. Scroll all the way to the right and you’ll see a plus icon that allows you to add more watch faces — tap this to find and add any new watch faces you recently downloaded.

Edit your watch face and personalize your device

android wear tips and tricks watch styles

In Wear OS, if the watch face supports it, you can customize available subdials or “Complications” on your watch face so you can see information like your fitness goals or upcoming calendar events at a glance. You can also change design aspects, such as the color of the face, hands, or the font for the numbers. To see if you can edit the face, press down on the main screen and look for a Settings cog under the selected face in the menu that appears. You’ll then be presented with a few options, including “Styles,” and “Data,” depending on the face.

  • Hit “Data” or “Layout” to customize your complications. You’ll be presented with a view of the complications you have installed, and you can tap one to change it. Complications vary depending on the apps you have installed, and you can also opt to have none.
  • Hit “Styles” to change the color scheme of your watch face.

If your Android smartwatch has more than one button, you can customize what app you want the second button to open. Swipe down from the watch face and tap the gear icon. Scroll down to Personalization, and tap Customize hardware buttons. Here you can choose what app you want each button to open.

Install apps on your watch

android wear tips and tricks watch apps

With Wear OS, you can install stand-alone apps on your watch with the pre-installed Wear Google Play Store. To access all your installed apps, press your watch’s main button, or crown. All apps appear in a scrollable list. To install new ones, scroll to the Google Play Store, and when you tap on it you can scroll through categories and install apps.

Check and manage battery life

Wear OS check watch battery
Simon Hill / Digital Trends
Simon Hill/Digital Trends

Checking the battery life is a cinch. Simply swipe down to see a quick summary of your battery life. If you need more information, go to the Wear OS app on your phone and choose Settings > Watch Battery. From here you can see how much juice you’ve got left, which apps are burning the most battery, and enable power saving features like dimming and theater mode.

You can still have your phone ring and not your watch

Wear OS - Do Not Disturb
Simon Hill / Digital Trends
Simon Hill/Digital Trends

If you’re not impressed by Wear OS’s vibrating notifications you can always mute watch notifications by swiping from the top to the bottom of the watch face. Touch the “do not disturb” icon to mute your watch.

Use Theater Mode to mute and silence notifications

android wear tips and tricks theater

Made for the theater so your watch’s screen won’t light up during the movie, Theater Mode can be helpful in other situations too. We’ve used it in the car when driving at night, for example. Swipe down from the top of the watch face, and depending on your device, you’ll see a watch with a diagonal line over it (Theater Mode) or a brightness indicator. Tap the brightness indicator and you’ll be able to access the same watch indicator — tap on it to trigger Theater Mode. Even if you move your wrist, the screen will not light up now, and you won’t see notifications. To deactivate Theater Mode, press your watch’s main button or crown.

Install a web browser

web-browser

It’s hard to think of practical reasons for accessing a web browser from a smartwatch, but Wear Internet Browser lets you do just that. You can tap into your phone’s browsing history and access bookmarks. Expect a frustrating experience, though, and you will have to pay for the full version of the app if you want to use this for more than search. Press the crown on your watch, and visit the Google Play Store to download the app.

Block notifications from specific apps

android wear tips and tricks app notifications

You can block notifications for specific apps from your phone. Go to your Wear OS app on your phone, choose Settings > Block app notifications. Touch the plus icon then select the apps you want to block.

Dim screen with your palm

Moto-360-Android-Wear

Dimming the screen on your Wear OS watch is actually very easy. All you need to do is place your palm over the watch screen until you feel it vibrate. Take your hand off again and you should see a dimmed screen.

Use voice commands

android wear tips and tricks watch assistant

Taking advantage of all that is Wear OS means using voice commands. It all works with Google Assistant, though you won’t find the same features on your phone’s Assistant. Press and hold down your watch’s main button and say your command. On many watches, you can also use the classic “OK, Google” voice command to activate Google Assistant, provided you give Assistant permission to listen out for your voice.

If your Wear OS watch has the latest version of the software, swipe to the right and you’ll find a screen dedicated to Assistant, reminders, and other activities. You can use Assistant to check the weather, place a call, send a text, set a reminder, create an alarm, and more.

Review the list of voice commands

android wear tips and tricks voice commands

Hold down your power button. A black screen will appear with the Google Assistant colored dots. Say “show me a list of voice commands.” You’ll then see some suggested commands that you can try. We’ve listed some of our favorites below:

  • When is [Valentine’s Day]
  • Should I bring a jacket today?
  • Who is [the Speaker of the House]
  • Show me the stocks for [Sony]
  • Set a reminder
  • Play [Modern Love]
  • Start [stopwatch]
  • Define [oxymoron]

Voice texting

voice-texts

Voice texting is easy — activate Google Assistant with the main button or your voice. Then say “Send a text to [insert contact here].” Assuming that person is in your contact list, you’ll be prompted to voice your message. You’ll get a chance to review the content of your message before sending. Google does a pretty good job of transcribing your messages, but it may have some trouble sorting between the three different Kates or four Joes in your contacts.

Take notes with your watch

android wear tips and tricks notes

Wear OS also lets you take notes. Using your voice, you can prompt your watch to transcribe a quick memo by saying “take a note.” The note will then land in your inbox or to Google Keep (if you have it installed). If you don’t want to use your voice to write a note, you can open the Google Keep app, press the “+” icon, and choose the keyboard to write it manually.

Navigation

maps

Wear OS can be used for navigation too. Say “Navigate to Mt. Hood” and you’ll get turn-by-turn directions, but no voice directions. If you need audible assistance, make sure your watch is paired with its smartphone and your phone — or Bluetooth connected headphones — will provide audio commands.

We hope you enjoy life with a smartwatch on your wrist. Wear OS is continually improving, so it’s a great time to buy a Wear OS watch if you don’t own one yet. Here are our recommendations for the best Wear OS smartwatches.

Deals

The Garmin Forerunner 35 gets a $50 price slash on Amazon

If you’re looking for an easy way to keep track of your fitness goals, a fitness tracker might be just what you need. The Garmin Forerunner 35 is one of our all-time favorites, and it’s on sale right now for $120.
Mobile

Learn to maintain your smartphone battery and maximize your phone's battery life

Our smartphones are an integral part of everyday life, but to keep them functioning at their best for the long haul, it's critical to preserve battery life. Here are some easy steps you can take every day to boost your phone's battery life.
Home Theater

What is Android TV? Google’s smart TV software fully explained

Google's Android TV might not be a household name yet, but with growing support from brands like Sony, it will be soon. But what exactly is Android TV, how do you get it, and what are the benefits? We explain it all.
Deals

Make some time for the best smartwatch deals for May 2019

Smartwatches make your life easier by sending alerts right on your wrist. Many also provide fitness-tracking features. So if you're ready to take the plunge into wearables and want to save money, read on for the best smartwatch deals for…
Mobile

Your OnePlus 7 Pro is awesome out of the box, but there's more to discover

You've got your awesome new OnePlus 7 Pro in your hand, and you want to make sure it's set up correctly. Here's our complete guide to the settings you should change, and features you must know about, on the OnePlus 7 Pro.
Apple

AirPods deal alert: Apple’s latest wireless earphones are at their lowest price

Apple just refreshed its AirPods, making an solid product even better. The newest AirPods make the case chargeable using Qi charging, always-on Siri, and better Bluetooth connectivity. While they're out of stock on Amazon, you can order now…
Wearables

Samsung adds One UI and battery boosts to Galaxy Watch and Gear smartwatches

Samsung has updated software for its Galaxy Watch, Gear Sport, and Gear S3 watches to implement its updated and simplified One UI interface. The update also offers new watch faces, battery life improvements, and health and fitness features.
Deals

REI Anniversary Sale: Save big on these awesome Garmin smartwatches

If you’re in the market for a full-featured smartwatch that can do double duty as a detailed fitness tracker, look no further: For its Anniversary Sale, REI is offering savings of up to $150 on a few of the best Garmin fitness watches.
Deals

It’s time to check out the best Apple Watch deals for May 2019

The Apple Watch has surged to prominence in recent years. If you're in the market for an iOS wearable, we've sniffed out the best Apple Watch deals available right now for all three models of this great smartwatch.
Mobile

Google’s new $999 augmented reality smartglasses are ready for business

Google unveiled Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2, a new version of its business-focused augmented reality wearable. The company's smartglasses ship with a faster processor, an updated camera, and safety frames from Smith Optics.
Deals

REI cuts prices on Garmin Fenix 5 and Suunto 3 fitness smartwatches

REI is currently dropping prices on Garmin Fenix and Suunto smartwatches for its anniversary sale. With fitness tracking, GPS, and smartphone connectivity, a solid wearable is one of the best companions outdoorsmen could wish for.
Computing

Apple sends out invites for WWDC 2019, and unicorns are involved

Apple developers and fans alike look forward every year to the company's Worldwide Developers Conference, better known as WWDC. Apple has confirmed the conference will take place on June 3-7, and the company just sent out invites.
Deals

Apple Watches get steep smartwatch discounts for Memorial Day

If you've been thinking about picking up a new wearable, an Apple Watch is one of the best smartwatches you can buy. With Memorial Day sales from Walmart and Amazon springing up all over the place, now is a great time to save.
Emerging Tech

Future smart clothes promise to keep you the perfect temperature at all times

Regulating your body temperature can sometimes be tough. Engineers from UC San Diego have developed heating and cooling wearable tech which could be embedded into future smart clothing.