One beautiful aspect about Google’s Android operating system has always been the fact that it allows developers and enthusiasts to customize it with homebuilt versions. Custom ROMs—i.e., operating-system firmware that users can “flash” onto their devices—have been part of Android since nearly the beginning.
Now custom ROMs have now come to Android Wear, Google’s version of the operating system that runs on smartwatches and wearable devices.
Android developer Jake Day has released one of the first custom ROMs for the LG G Watch, one of the first two Android Wear watches to hit the market. Day posted the ROM on RootzWiki, an Android news and information site for developers and designers.
The ROM—nicknamed Gohma after a boss in the video game Zelda—is fairly simple. It aims to improve battery life of the LG G Watch, speed up overall performance, reduce lag time between notification cards and increase vibration intensity.
Gohma isn’t a full-blown Android Wear replacement. The ROM abides by the basic user interface design principles of Wear and the LG G Watch will still take over-the-air updates to the operating system from Google and LG (which will wipe out the ROM installation). Day makes sure to note that Gohma is a small release intended to improve performance and to make sure that everything is work well before releasing a fuller version of the ROM at a later date.
Gohma is fairly easy to install. Knowledgeable developers will just need to make sure that the device’s bootloader is unlocked and the ROM script will root the device and itself, allowing for the custom software to be installed.
Unleashing The Community: A Good Thing For Smartwatches
Android Wear generally leaves a lot to be desired. It is Google’s first go at smartwatch software and, initially, it is basically just a notifications device strapped to your wrist. For the time being, that’s perfectly fine as wrist-based notifications are a (surprisingly) pleasant way to receive messages. But Android Wear and smartwatches in general have much more potential than what is currently available.
Part of that is a hardware problem as engineers are naturally limited by the capabilities of currently available processors and sensors. But the hardware in the LG G Watch is almost the equivalent of a 2011 Android smartphone, so it should be able to do much more than the notification cards and voice interaction that is currently available through the initial release of Android Wear.
This is where the large community of Android developers has an opportunity to build on top of Wear through custom skins and ROMs to make it a better performing, more functional and attractive device. Day’s Gohma should just the start as the heavy hitters in the Android ROM community—like CyanogenMod—will surely get involved, pushing Android Wear development to further feats of utility and maturation.
The Android developer community doesn’t operate in a vacuum either. Google listens to developers and often implements features and requests that developers have built on their own to work around the limitations of stock Android. The Android development community is essentially one giant sandbox for Google to learn about what app builders and consumers want in the next version of the operating system.
For the last six years, this process has worked well in helping to build ever better versions of Android for smartphones and tablets. Hopefully with the first custom ROM for Android Wear, Google can learn how to build better software for smartwatches as well.
Images: Gohma via HD Wallpaper; Android LG G Watch by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite