Android Wear

9 exceptional Android Wear watch faces

Bring your Android Wear watch to life with these nine downloadable faces that show just how awesome a smartwatch can be.

Android Wear Watch Faces
IDG/JR Raphael

Android Wear

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Customization is a core part of Android Wear's appeal, both in the ever-expanding selection of watches you can choose from and in the diverse range of designs you can use for your watch's face.

And you know what? Both areas are equally important. Sure, you need to have hardware you like in order to enjoy Android Wear -- but having a watch face you love can really take your Wear experience to the next level. Being able to customize and change your watch's face is a big part of what makes a smartwatch special, after all. And when it comes to Android Wear, there's no shortage of excellent options available.

But finding the right face isn't always easy. With the oodles of designs out there, you really have to take the time to buy and try a bunch if you want to uncover the cream of the crop.

Well, fear not, my friends, for I've done the dirty work for you. After much exploration and experimentation, here are nine Android Wear watch faces that stand out to me as being particularly exceptional.

1. Minimal & Elegant ($0.99)

android wear watch faces minimal elegant

I love this design's simple and (you guessed it) elegant vibe, with its two rows of animated numbers and the subtle yet impactful "glow" animation it displays every time you activate your watch's screen.

Most of all, though, I love the many ways Minimal & Elegant lets you take control and customize how it looks. Within the face's settings in the Android Wear app, you can change all sorts of details about the design to make it suit your style or mood -- everything from fonts and colors to what text and information is shown above and below the main clock (I changed mine to have the day and date along with the temperature and current weather conditions, for example).

android wear watch faces minimal elegant 2

The design has a couple of fun advanced options, too: You can opt to set up a "Colors Scheduler" that'll automatically change the colors of your watch face based on the time of day, and you can add "Little Worlds" -- things like city scapes or lineups of Android robot silhouettes -- onto the face's lower end. That creates a neat effect on the Moto 360 in particular, as it turns the watch's sometimes-awkward "flat tire" bottom into a cool-looking feature.

2. Pujie Black ($1.39)

android wear watch faces pujie black

Pujie is hands-down one of the most polished, practical, and customizable Wear faces I've encountered. As I've written before, the face lets you personalize practically every detail of your Wear watch's appearance -- everything from the presence or absence of hands to the size and style of numbers, on-screen text, and minute markings.

Android Wear Apps - Pujie Black (animation)
Android Wear Apps - Pujie Black (animation)

The Pujie face features three customizable indicators that can show things like the weather, your watch and/or phone battery levels, and the current time in alternate locations. You can choose to include calendar events as well, with an optional center-of-watch hotspot to view a list of upcoming events. And slick animations all throughout the design go a long way in elevating the Wear experience and making it extra delightful.

3. Skymaster Pilot ($0.99)

android wear watch faces skymaster pilot

Skymaster's classy design manages to combine the style of a traditional watch with the function of a smartwatch -- all without getting overly busy or cluttered, as many watch faces tend to do.

The face gives you up to four dials that can display the date, the weather, your watch's battery status, and the time in any alternate time zone. And aside from those dials, you can customize the face's color along with the logo text (where it says "JR 360" on mine). You can also play with the hand style and control how dim the display's ambient mode will go.

4. Orbit ($1.65)

android wear watch faces orbit

Orbit's a great example of a futuristic face design that doesn't veer into tacky terrain. It brings a spaceship-like display to your watch's surface, complete with control panels showing the date, weather, and your device's battery level.

Orbit isn't quite as customizable as some other faces -- you can pick from a few color schemes and themes, opt to show or hide numbers along the face's perimeter, and change the second hand's behavior from "ticking" to "sweeping" -- but when a design looks this good to begin with, who really cares?

5. Cool Circle (free)

android wear watch faces cool circles

Sleek, simple, and tasteful -- that's the best way to describe the Cool Circle watch face, which brings a splash of color to your Wear device with a design that's classy and glanceable as can be.

Cool Circle lets you choose any imaginable color for its main accent. Its settings also have a handy option to increase the amount of time your Wear display remains lit when you activate it, which can be quite useful if you've ever wished the face would stay fully illuminated a little longer.

On the face, you'll see a combination analog-digital clock along with the day, date, and your watch's battery level. There's a nice chunk-based second ticker along the perimeter in the same color as the accent. And that's it.

Sleek, simple, and tasteful -- remember? Oh, and it's also free.

6. Now V2 for Facer ($1)

android wear watch faces now v2

This one's a bit different from the rest, as it's a theme for Facer -- an app that provides the framework for you to download and install thousands of user-created designs. Once you buy the main Facer app, the theme itself is free; all you have to do is visit its page from your phone and click the link to download it. Facer will take care of the rest.

Now V2 gives you a taste of Google Now on your Android Wear watch, with large text showing the time and date atop a Now-like background that automatically changes based on the weather around you. The bottom part of the face features more detailed weather info with a black background that has the benefit of hiding the flat tire on the Moto 360, since it blends almost seamlessly into that area of the screen.

The face's one flaw is that its ambient mode remains a bit too bright, with the colorful Now-like images remaining visible and in full color even in that dimmed state. The beauty of Facer, however, is that you can tweak every detail yourself: Just open up the face in the Facer app, tap the editing icon (the two stacked diamonds) in the top-right of the screen, and go into each background image to uncheck the "Display when dimmed" box within.

Voilà: You've just taken a cool face and made it even better.

7. Runner ($1.08)

android wear watch faces runner

If fitness is your primary focus, the Runner face for Android Wear is just the thing for you. Runner puts your heart rate and current step count for the day along with the time, date, and battery levels for your phone and watch into a clean design that's simple and easy to read.

The Runner face has a second ticker along its perimeter that fits nicely with the fitness theme. You can customize that color along with the background color; you can also turn on or off the heart rate and step count info, if you're ever so inclined.

8. World Timer ($0.99)

android wear watch faces world timer

Talk about a clever way to keep track of multiple time zones: The aptly named World Timer watch face puts 24 time zones around your watch's perimeter -- one for each hour, letting you quickly see the time in different locations relative to your own.

You can pick your own reference city, which always sits at the 12:00 position, and you can customize the cities around the ring to your suit your fancy. Oh, and that icon of Earth in the middle? It changes throughout the day to show how the planet actually looks from the sun at any given moment.

9. Runway (free)

android wear watch faces runway

This last face turns your Android Wear watch into a dynamic display that shows you the current and upcoming weather in an attractive sliced-pie design. The face is divided into thirds, with the current time at the top and a graphic showing the forecast for each chunk as you move around.

As I wrote when initially describing Runway last December, smartwatch face designers have tons of info at their disposal, and many of them end up trying to cram too much of it into a small surface area. I don't want my watch face to be a complex dashboard jam-packed with every bit of data available; I want it to be something I can easily glance at to glean pertinent info -- the type of info only a connected device could provide, and the type of info I'd actually need to know at a glance.

That's precisely what Runway does -- and like the other faces featured on this page, it does it exceptionally well.

MORE: 5 animated Android Wear watch faces worth trying

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