Why are there so few apps available for Wear OS in Play Store?
In the origins of Wear OS, when it was still called Android Wear, between 2014 and 2017, hundreds of apps created for these watches were published in the Play Store, during that time and shortly after it was already evident that there was not much interest in the market for these watches, this was also coupled with the abandonment by Google of Wear OS that has maintained this little attention until almost the launch of Galaxy Watch 4, last year. After the app boom in the first 3 years, and due to this scenario, many app developers stopped publishing new apps and/or updating the ones that were already published.
In addition, Google for some time is doing a purge of apps in the Play Store that they consider "bad" and that violate points in Google's policy (which is updated quite frequently), such as apps that ask for permissions that are not really necessary for the operation of the app, for example the call log or the location in the background. They are also removing apps that are obsolete because they have not been updated to an Android API level of the last 2 years, i.e. as of today all apps that point at most to Android 11 or lower will be hidden in Play Store searches. As new Android/Wear OS versions are released, the 2-year window will advance accordingly. They will actually only be hidden for new users of the app, as if you have ever installed it, you will still see it in the Play Store and can continue to use it. However, if you have never used the app that Google considers outdated, it will not appear in the Play Store when you search for it.
I often read developers complaining about how hard it is for them to get Google to authorize the publication of their apps in the Play Store, and Google has started to impose a heavy hand in order to have apps with higher quality and safer for the user. Google is requiring developers to limit the use of permissions to those necessary to provide the features of their application. In addition, they have to explain in the app's "Data Security" section how sensitive user data is handled. Last year, they rejected or removed tens of thousands of apps on Android (many of them for Wear OS) that did not comply with Google's policies related to privacy and user data.
All these causes cause that currently the number of apps available for Wear OS is very low, there are far fewer apps than in the first year of life of Wear OS, in fact, from November 1, 2022, there will be much less, as Google will make another purge against obsolete apps. Either for security reasons or for abandonment of the app developer that leaves them outdated.
I don't know how many apps for Wear OS are currently in the Play Store, probably excluding Watch faces there will be less than 300 apps. Google publishes from time to time the number of apps hosted in the Play Store, but in a global way (it includes apps for Wear OS along with Android) so I think it is not possible to know with certain accuracy. Does anyone know how many there are currently for Wear OS?
Wear OS Apps Repository
The fact is that many apps that were available before are now gone, and as of November 1 much less, so I have created the following repository taking advantage of reliable servers in APKMirror, GitHub (from developer) or on my own server, Mega.
The intention is to preserve those apps that are no longer hosted in the Play Store (or never were) and are still functional. This repository contains apps that:
- Have been abandoned by their developer, but are still functional, for example, Telegram.
- Have been created for Android. Normally, the interface of these apps is not perfectly adapted to the small size of the screen, but they still work, for example, Pulse Music.
- They are not hosted on Play Store for different reasons, for example. OruxMaps.
- They have not been updated for some time or violate some non-serious point of the policy, and Google has taken the determination to hide them for new users of the app, for example, Button Launcher.
- They are not compatible with your watch, but are mostly functional, e.g. Feel The Wear.
Also, if any independent developer has their app outside the Play Store and wants me to post the download link in the repository to write a comment with the name of the app and download link.
How to install this app by sideload?
To send and install the applications on your watch, you can do it in several ways:
- If you want to install from the phone, you can use the Wear Installer app, Bugjaeger Mobile ADB or Easy Fire Tools. In this link, extensive information about this and how to install with these tools.
- If you want to install from a PC, you must do it through ADB commands. In this link, you can download Wear OS Tools, a tool for Windows that makes it easy to install apps from your PC.
- In order to install apps via sideload, you must enable "Debugging over Wi-Fi". On the watch, go to Settings > system > About and repeatedly tap "Build number" until you see a message that says 'You are now a developer'. Then go to Settings> Developer options and enable "ADB debugging" and "Debugging over Wi-Fi".
- If you are also going to install from the PC, you must download and install ADB tools, such as ADB & Fastboot++.
- In APKMirror, to download an app you must choose, in case there are several variants, the variant “armeabi-v7a". For DPI, choose "nodpi" variants.
- The fact that an app has been removed from the Play Store, does not imply that it is a dangerous app, there are applications that offer a decent set of features and are totally innocent, but have been abandoned by their developers for whatever reason and Google fulfilling its policy of obsolete apps removed them from the Play Store.
- If you have outdated apps installed on your watch (which of course are still useful for you) but unfortunately they are no longer in the Play Store, you can back up the APK files of the apps with WearOS Tools, like this you will not lose them if you reset the watch or change to a new watch. If any app of these characteristics is not in the repository, comment it here to upload it to the repository and preserve it.