Hacking faces onto my Android watch (paired with iPhone)

Yury Zhuk
Yury Zhuk
Jan 10 · 4 min read

Although I’m grateful for the existence of the Wear OS on the iOS AppStore, its list of features is severely limited in comparison to Android. The goal of this project was to bring my favourite watch faces under Android back to my watch (paired with an iPhone).

The final result — “Fiore” watch face installed, connector top right

I can live without some apps I had, but at the very least I should be able to customize the watch face beyond the 10 or so presets!

Difficulties:

  • iOS doesn’t have Android apps (or watch faces for Android wear)
  • you can only pair one phone at a time; un-pairing factory resets the watch and deletes all apps (and watch faces)
  • my Moto 360 watch has no computer interface. The only built-in option for communication is through Bluetooth via the paired phone
  • Preset watch faces are lackluster
  • Some newer watches come with their own app store, but mine cannot be upgraded to Wear OS 2.0 and thus does not

The solution:

  1. Making a new USB interface (cable) using hidden pins on the watch
  2. Side-loading a new watch face via ADB directly with a PC

Step 1) The cable:

Process of creating the USB connector

After digging online for a bit, I learned that there was a secret USB interface built into the watch, hidden underneath a sticker under the strap just waiting to be connected to! Rootjunky offers an excellent tutorial for creating this connector.

pogo connection underneath the wristband

I wanted to avoid purchasing a specific connector just to create this cable. After all, I had plenty pieces of bendy wire at home that I was sure would work just fine. This ended up not being the case, as the wires need to be both stiff enough to hold in place, but also flexible enough to simultaneously touch the “pogo” connection pads on the watch!

After two unsuccessful attempts soldering different connectors and wires into place, I splurged on the $3 cat5 connector. The biggest issue with any version of the wire I tried was keeping the connection stable — the watch frequently rebooted, and the PC wouldn’t see the device at all or wouldn’t recognize it.

The cat5 version proposed in the rootjunky tutorial isn’t perfect, but does the trick if I hold my breath. The red tape in the image above helped hold everything in place for a few minutes

Step 2) The side-load

“Promiscuous [watch], you already know
That I’m all yours, what you waiting for?” — Nelly Furtado

There are many tutorials out there on how to side-load APKs (Android apps) onto an Android wear watch, and the one that worked for me was from Team Indabaa.

However, instead of Android Developer Tools I opted for a minimal ADB available from XDA Developers. I also installed Motorola USB drivers for my Moto 360.

Connected..

Ok, it’s connected, let’s see if we can send the APKs to the watch:

photo of successful install commands sent through ADB to watch
photo of successful install commands sent through ADB to watch
Success?

Yes we can!

All APKs installed!

Conclusion

Fiore watch face

I installed my three favourite watch faces: Fiore, Moods of Norway, and Mysterious Forest. All are free but I had to download from sketchy sites to get the APK files directly.

Overall I’m very happy with the result and I’m enjoying the faces I had before! Now my 3-year old watch can live a bit longer. Besides, it can do anything the newest Apple Watch can with the right sideloaded apps.

One frustrating issue I̶’̶m̶ ̶s̶t̶i̶l̶l̶ ̶d̶e̶a̶l̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶w̶i̶t̶h̶ I dealt with is the constantly-dropping pairing connection. This happened before this operation, which could be a symptom of the iDevice and Android not playing well together. One solution is to re-pair, but this means I would have to re-load the apps as well. I’ll update here if I find a solution!

Update: Re-pairing and re-downloading the apps from scratch fixed the connection issue! I tested hopping to different networks and there were no issues.

Yury Zhuk

Written by

Yury Zhuk

https://www.yury.cc

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