One of Android Wear 2.0‘s marquee features is its support for standalone apps. This eliminates the need to constantly have your phone nearby to send data to your smartwatch apps, since they can now function like your typical smartphone app. As nice as standalone apps are, they remained exclusive to Android Wear 2.0 until today, when Google announced that standalone apps also work with Android Wear 1.0.
Diving into the policy change requires a bit of context, which is where multi-APKs come in. In short, they enable standalone watch apps and faces to exist because they separate an Android Wear app from its corresponding smartphone app. Not only do multi-APKs allow developers to create standalone watch apps, but also allow iOS users to experience Android Wear apps – keep in mind that Android Wear watches can connect to iPhones.
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As such, the policy change that allows developers can now use multi-APKs for Android Wear 1.0 watches means that the feature is no longer exclusive to Android Wear 2.0. It also means that Google wants as many standalone Android Wear apps in as many places as possible, particularly when it comes to reaching iOS folks:
This is critical to providing apps not only to our Android users, but also iOS users – which is increasingly important as we continue to expand our diverse ecosystem of watches and users.
As for the actual policy, Google’s push for developers to unbundle their Android Wear APKs from their mobile apps will start on January 18, 2018. This includes watch faces and complication data providers. Once developers do so, their apps will have the “Enhanced for Android Wear” badge on the Play Store.