Installing Android-Apps on WearOS

While WearOS supports the Google Play Store, the list of apps listed in the store is still limited. However, the WearOS platform is just a stripped-down version of Android. Thus, it is possible to run apps designed for Android on the watch. Still, the installation of those apps is not trivial. In this article, I give a step-by-step tutorial how to install an android app on WearOS over ADB.

Note, however, that not all Android apps will work on your WearOS device. The reason is that some software libraries, such as WebViews, are missing from WearOS. A list of supported apps geared towards the Galaxy Watch 4 with download links is in a thread in the XDA-developers forum. I also figured out how to modify some unsupported apps that they can run on WearOS. If you are interested in this, keep an eye on this blog. I will publish an article on this process in the future.

Preparations

  1. Find a source for the installation file of the app. This file will have the file-extension apk. For apps from the Google Play Store, you can generate a download link with Evozi. Alternatively, websites such as APKMirror and Apkpure host mirrors of this apk-files. Download the file to your installation device (i.e., your smartphone or computer).
  2. Ensure that the device is connected to the same Wi-Fi-network as the watch.
  3. Enable the developers mode of the watch:
    1. WearOS 2: Open Settings -> System -> About -> Repeatedly press Build number until a toast notification confirms that developers mode is enabled.
    2. Galaxy Watch 4: Open Settings -> Information about the clock -> Software -> Repeatedly press Software version until a toast notification confirms that developers mode is enabled.
  4. On the watch: Open Settings -> Developer options and enable ADB debugging and Debug over Wi-Fi. Wait until the watch connects to the Wi-Fi network and a code of the format XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX:YYYY (every X and every Y is a digit) appears below the Debug over Wi-Fi-toggle. XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX is the IP address, and YYYY is the port of the watch. Write both of them down.
  5. If you use a computer for installation continue in the With a Computer section. If you use a smartphone, continue in the With a Smartphone section.

With a Computer

  1. Download the Android Platform Tools for your Operating System: Windows, macOS, Linux.
  2. Extract the ZIP-file containing the Android Platform Tools (for example to the Desktop).
  3. Open the folder containing the extracted files. Here should be a file called adb or adb.exe.
  4. Move or copy the apk file of your app to this folder.
  5. Open a Terminal in the location of the extracted files.
  6. Type and execute ./adb connect XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX:YYYY in the terminal. Replace XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX with the IP address and YYYY with the port with the data of your watch that you wrote down earlier.
  7. There should be a popup with a connection request on your watch. Press Accept. The terminal might display an error message that the authentication failed. You can ignore this message.
  8. Confirm with ./adb devices that connecting the watch to the computer was successful. The connected watch should appear in the displayed list.
  9. Install the app with ./adb install example.apk. Replace example.apk with the name of your installation file.
  10. Disable ADB debugging in the developer options of the watch. Don’t skip this step. Otherwise, the battery life of your smartwatch will suffer.

With your Smartphone

  1. Install the app Easy Fire Tools on your smartphone and open it.
  2. Open the settings of the app.
  3. Enter the IP address you wrote down earlier in the field IP Address.
  4. Close the settings and switch to the tab Custom APK File.
  5. Press the plug icon in the top right corner.
  6. There should be a popup with a connection request on your watch. Press Accept. Afterwards press Continue on the smartphone.
  7. Select the installation-file on the smartphone and press Install to install it.
  8. Disable ADB debugging in the developer options of the watch. Don’t skip this step. Otherwise, the battery life of your smartwatch will suffer.

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