Google is concerned that Wear OS apps aren’t meeting their full potential under the Play Store’s optional app review process, so it will make pre-release reviews mandatory starting in October. The current optional review system has been used since the launch of Android Wear 2.0 last year.
Developers should note two deadlines: New Wear OS apps will face mandatory reviews starting on October 1, 2018. Existing apps will start to be reviewed on March 4, 2019.
Google suggests that app reviews will be “lightweight,” and solely for the purpose of improving app quality across multiple devices. “Mobile app updates will not be blocked if they fail the Wear app review,” the company notes, so including support for a wearable won’t hold back the progress of a phone app.
The app review process itself isn’t changing, and Google’s review criteria remain available for developers to consult in advance. Two issues that commonly come up during reviews are lack of a Wear OS screenshot, and missing support for certain screen types — round, round with chin, and square are supported. Google expects that adding screenshots will improve app discoverability, while supporting more screen types will increase user interest.
Going forward, developers who want to test “early prototypes” of Wear apps without facing app review should use Google Play’s internal testing features or manually deploy Wear APKs to users. Google says that app reviews will be required for apps using the Play Store’s open and closed test channels, to avoid creating last-minute issues ahead of app deployment.
Google’s increased attention to app quality lines up with rumors that a Pixel-branded watch will debut this fall, and the company certainly needs its own hero product to compete with Apple, Fitbit, and Samsung wearables. Its plans may be unveiled at a Qualcomm event on September 10, which is expected to star an unnamed flagship smartwatch — and definitely not the Exynos 9110-powered Samsung Galaxy Watch announced last week.