While Android 11 for phones and tablets is expected to launch in Q3, Wear OS is still running Android 9 Pie. That said, the wearable platform is still getting updates with watch faces now able to take advantage of hardware acceleration.

Hardware acceleration lets watch faces render at a higher frame rate with smoother animations and transitions. Google says “these benefits are self-evident” for end users.

Behind-the-scenes, Wear OS apps already take advantage of hardware-accelerated graphics rendering, but watch faces are implemented using canvasses. Google last month updated the Wearable Support Library (version 2.7.0) to let developers request a hardware-accelerated canvas. This also provides more UI performance data by enabling Debug GPU profiling under Settings > Developer options.

This feature is only available on Wear OS devices that run Android 9 or later. Developers are able to exclude older watches.

Google does warn that “hardware acceleration can greatly lower the battery life of a device” if implemented on watch faces with long-running animations, or those that draw in every frame.

To avoid negatively impacting your users, you shouldn’t have long-running animations in your watch face. This guideline is not specific to using hardware acceleration, but because using hardware acceleration increases the number of frames you’re able to draw, it is even more important to follow.

Adding Wear OS support for hardware-accelerated watch faces is up to developers with Google detailing what’s required and best practices.

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