The first two devices to run Android Wear, the LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live, are available for purchase this week, and the two devices represent Google’s attempt to move ahead of the curve in the wearable technology space. The big problem, however, is that there’s a major bug that prevents developers from successfully loading their paid apps onto users’ Android Wear devices.
Needless to say, the issue could be a major blow to Google’s efforts to sell consumers and developers on the new platform. To help its software partners avoid the glitch, Google published details on the Android Developers Blog with a fix for the problem. Apparently, developers will need to “manually package” the wearable APK – the app install file specific to Android Wear – into a different directory to avoid being tripped up by the Google Play Store’s app encryption.
It seems as though these instructions don’t represent a temporary fix; this is what developers will have to do on their end to ensure that apps install on Android Wear going forward. Google says that they “will be also be updating the documentation to reflect the above workaround… and we’re working to make this easier for you in the future.” That makes it sound as though Google won’t do much to change the encryption methods of the Google Play store, opting instead to place the responsibility on developers to jump through an extra hoop to create Android Wear apps. Hopefully the company’s efforts to make this process easier going forward will actually make good on that promise.
I’m not an app developer, so I can’t speak to how onerous this process might be. However, Google would do well to ensure that the process of developing for Android Wear is as seamless as possible going forward. One of Android Wear’s greatest assets is that it’s based on Android, which already enjoys one of the most robust and open app ecosystems compared with the competition. Any barriers to easy development could cause app makers to find their fortunes on a different wearable platform, whether it be Samsung’s Tizen, Apple’s forthcoming iWatch, or even Microsoft’s mystery smartband. With the wearable field still wide open, Google is still vulnerable with Android Wear despite the good buzz the operating system has generated. As such, Google would be wise to keep developers happy.