Patterns Always-on

Always-on

Always-on mode allows your app to stay open when the device display is dimmed, without compromising the battery.

Usage Expand and collapse content An arrow that points down when collapsed and points up when expanded.

Android Wear apps have two states: active and always-on.

Active mode

In active mode, the display is on and can receive input. All animations and interactions are enabled.

Always-on mode

In always-on mode, all interactivity is disabled and the display switches to power-saving mode. Always-on mode reduces battery usage by drastically reducing the number of lit pixels on the display.

The always-on state is best for experiences with periodic interaction during an ongoing task or activity. For example:

  • A grocery list app during a shopping trip
  • A fitness-tracking app during a run
  • Updated bus departure times
  • A boarding pass at the airport
Use case example active

Active mode

Use case example active

Always-on mode

Style Expand and collapse content An arrow that points down when collapsed and points up when expanded.

Always-on mode should:

  • Use a limited color palette
  • Restrict the background color to black
  • Replace filled areas with outlines or pixel patterns
  • Aim to have 95% of its pixels black

Always-on mode should avoid:

  • Complex shading or imagery
  • Large type

Guidelines Expand and collapse content An arrow that points down when collapsed and points up when expanded.

Always-on interactions

Remove or disable interactive elements in always-on mode.

Remove affordances active mode

A shopping list UI in active mode

Remove affordances ambient mode

A shopping list UI in always-on mode

Matching layouts

Maintain the same layout across active and always-on states so users don’t need to navigate different layouts to perform the same tasks.

Active mode

Active mode

Do: Always-On mode

Do.

Always-on mode uses the same layout as active mode.

Dont: Always-On mode don't

Don’t.

Don’t use a different layout for always-on mode.

Burn-in

In always-on mode, graphics should be drawn using thin outlines, rather than thick lines or solid areas, to avoid damaging screens with burn-in.

Remove affordances ambient mode

Do.

Use shapes with thin strokes for always-on mode.

Remove affordances active mode

Don’t.

Don’t use large solid areas or thick strokes for always-on mode.

Telling time

Show the current time in always-on mode, so users benefit from the default watch face alongside your app.

Use a time indicator

A shopping list showing the current time

QR codes

Display any QR codes surrounded by a black border to avoid screen burn-in.

QR code examples

A QR code in active mode

QR code examples

A QR code in always-on mode, with an additional time indicator

Privacy protection

Design always-on screens with user privacy in mind. Users may be away from their smart watches periodically or may not want personal information displayed.

Update frequency

Android Wear updates the screen once per minute in an always-on state, by default. Your app may require more frequent updates, which could affect battery life.