Android Wear has a major hardware disadvantage when it comes to swimming: Android Wear doesn’t give any hardware button access to application developers. The hardware buttons on Android Wear are reserved for operating system functions only.
The Swim.com app on the Apple Watch utilizes the Digital Crown to enter and exit Drill Mode and Pace mode. On Android Wear, the only thing we can access as application developers is the touchscreen. This is an issue because the water easily simulates false touches to the touch screen (see “Do I have to lock the screen before I swim with my Apple Watch?”) and would enter you into Drill Mode or Pace Mode accidentally.
Furthermore, the Swim.com app on Android Wear before version 2.0 used Theater Mode to not only lock the screen and prevent inputs that would accidentally end the workout, but also to maintain the flow of accelerometer data to the app. While initially developing our app, testing determined that false inputs created by the water touching the screen actually interrupted the accelerometer data that Swim.com uses to recognize swimming, resulting in the algorithms failing. For these reasons, we require users with Android Wear 1.X versions to enter Theater Mode by double-pressing the hardware button on their watch before the swimming algorithms start.
In Android Wear 2.0, Google has removed the ability for users to enter Theater Mode using the hardware button, meaning they need to be out of the Swim.com app to use it and can’t use the Swim.com app while in Theater Mode, nor Theater Mode while in the Swim.com app. More testing is still needed to determine whether Google has addressed the issues with water interacting with the screen disrupting the accelerometer data, though we have just recently gotten access to devices running Android Wear 2.0 so there’s still of work to be done.
As an addendum, Google’s Android Wear team has been infamously difficult to pin down, much tougher than Apple and certainly tougher than Pebble. We’ve made contact on several occasions but they seem to drop off the map quite quickly. If you’re out there Android Wear product team, please get in touch!
Short Answer: We need to have access to a hardware button to enter and exit Drill Mode and Pace Mode and Android Wear doesn’t currently offer that.
This question brought to you by you, the users in our FAQ series. Have a question about the Swim.com app? Ask us in the comments below or email it to email@example.com