When it comes to smartwatches on iOS, many people think the Apple Watch is the only option. However, Android Wear also works with iOS, and Android 2.0 works almost as a standalone watch, making it much more useful than it used to be with Apple’s mobile operating system.
Basically, what you know of Android Wear with iOS—if anything at all—was likely based off of the first versions of Android Wear. While technically compatible, the watch was severely limited when compared to what it could do when used with Android. Most of that changed when Android 2.0 was released, making these watches a much more attractive (and affordable) option if you’re looking for a wearable to pair up with your iPhone.
If you’re on the fence about picking up an Android Wear watch, here’s a look at how to set it all up, as well as what to expect when using it with your iPhone.
Step One: Pair It Up
The first thing you’ll need to do is grab the Android Wear app for your iPhone. Once that’s installed and ready to go, pairing the watch is simple.
NOTE: This article assumes you’re using a new Android Wear watch—one that hasn’t been previously paired with another phone. If it has, you’ll need to first factory reset it before you can pair a new phone.
The setup process is pretty painless. You’ll first set your language on the watch, then launch the app on the phone. You’ll have to enable Bluetooth sharing and accept a couple of agreements, all of which can be done without leaving the Wear app.
Once the phone finds the watch, it’ll show up in the list of available devices. Tap that option, and the two will begin to talk. After a few seconds, a security code will show up on both—make sure the code matches, then tap “Confirm.”
After that, the watch will check for updates, and if anything is available, go ahead and install them. This bit will take some time, so just go get a coffee or something. Bring me one, too—two creams, one sugar. Thanks.
By the time you get back, the watch should be ready to go.
There are a lot of things to approve at this step: location data, calendar access, and a whole slew of other things. Read each one individually and make sure that you’re cool with giving the watch access to your stuff—just know that if you deny any of these features, the watch’s functionality (and usefulness) will take a hit. I pretty much give access to everything.
Lastly, you’ll just need to give the app and watch access to your Google account. If you already have this set up in your iPhone (because you use other Google apps, for example), then this step is a breeze—just hit the toggle next to your account name. Otherwise, you’ll have to add it.
Step Two: Customize and Configure
After you get through the onslaught of approvals and whatnot, there are still a few more things to do. Mostly just more approvals. Seriously, there are a lot of these things.
In the Wear app’s main screen, which you should automatically be kicked into as soon as the pairing process is finished, you’ll see a big blue box telling you to turn on “Your Feed.” That’s a thing you’ll want to do, so go ahead and tap that box.
Basically, this is all your Google stuff: Gmail, Calendar, Location, etc. The popup box that shows up will tell you a bit more about that, so if you’re in, tap the “Yes I’m in” button. Boom. You’re in. I love it when a plan comes together.
From there, another blue box appears, this time asking for your location. If you’re cool with that, just tap the box and allow it to access your location.
Whew, you’re pretty much done with the setup process now. Good for you!
Now that you’re finished with all of that, let’s talk about some of the options, like watch faces. You can choose from the pre-installed selection by tapping the “more” button in the Watch Face sections. We’ll talk about installing more faces and whatnot down below.
Otherwise, let’s talk about the Settings menu. Tap that little gear icon in the upper right corner if you’re following along at home.
This is where you’ll handle all of Wear’s tweaks and whatnot. You can add and remove accounts, manage your feed, and get Google Assistant tips, for starters. These are all things related to your Google account, so dig in and set things up for the way you plan on using your watch. Let it know what’s important to you, so the notifications are customized.
You also control the watch settings in this menu. If you don’t want the display on all the time, turn that off. If you’re not into the display lighting up every time you move, untick the “Tilt to wake” option. Honestly, it’s all pretty self explanatory here—use what you want, turn off what you don’t like. Just know that this is where everything is done and you should be good.
Back on the watch, a tutorial will start. Just follow along with that to learn the basics of Android Wear.
Step Three: Install Apps and Watch Faces
Here is where Android Wear 2.0 is dramatically different than its predecessor, mostly because installing new content is handled directly from the watch instead of on the phone. So if you want to install new apps and faces, you’ll do it from the Play Store on the watch. It’s very straightforward once you abandon leftover notions from Android Wear 1.x.
If your watch has a crown, click it to open the launcher. You’ll see all the apps that are already installed on the watch—just tap the app to launch it. But since we’re talking about installing new things, you’re looking for the Play Store.
Once you’ve launched it, you’ll most likely see a notification that the watch isn’t currently on Wi-Fi. You can set that up by tapping the “Add network” button, choosing your Wi-Fi network, then inputting the password on the phone. Now you’re ready to rock and roll.
The watch Play Store is basically stripped down version of what you get on Android phones, but I won’t hold it against if you if you’re not familiar with that. Just think of it as a barebones App Store and you have the idea.
The initial interface is very, very simple, with just a handful of options. You can see Google suggestions, featured apps, popular watch faces, and a few others. There’s also a search button at the top, so if you know what you want, you can look for it here.
But there’s an easier way to get apps and watch faces on you watch: by remotely installing them from the web. You can look around on the web version of the Play Store, then push things to your watch directly from your computer: once you find something you want to install, just click the “Install” button, enter your Google password, then select your watch. Easy peasy.
What to Expect from Your Android Wear Experience on iOS
At this point, the Wear experience on iOS is pretty dang close to that of Android. Since you can get apps and watch faces directly on the watch itself, that removes one of the biggest barriers Android Wear faced on iOS with the initial launch, which is huge.
In my experience, notification access worked well—calls, text messages, and other notifications that hit my iPhone came through on the watch without any issues. I will note, however, that I’m not a full-time iPhone user, so on a long enough timeline, you may hit some instances where notifications don’t transfer to the watch the way you’d expect. I didn’t find this in my testing, however.
If you’re interested in a more in-depth look at Android Wear in general, check out our post on setting up and using Wear, which will get you more familiar with the platform as a whole.
I’m going to be honest here: the Apple Watch still probably provides a better overall experience with iPhone than Android Wear does. I mean, they’re built in the same ecosystem and designed to work together, so it makes sense. But if you’re looking to save some funds, or if you really like the look and customizability of Android Wear, it’s a great alternative.