lightbulb_outline Please take our October 2018 developer survey. Start survey

Request permissions on Wear OS

Android 6.0 (API level 23) introduced a new permissions model, bringing some changes that are specific to Wear OS by Google, and other changes that apply to all Android-powered devices.

A user must grant permissions to a Wear app even if there is a companion phone app. From Android 6.0 (API level 23), a Wear app cannot receive permissions granted in a phone app. For example, if a user grants a phone app the permission to use location data, the Wear app user subsequently needs to grant the same permission.

Note: This page assumes the possibility that you are creating a phone app as a companion to your watch app. However, it is not required that you create a phone app; your watch app can be a standalone app.

For both Wear and phone apps, the Android 6.0 (API level 23) permissions model also streamlines app installation and upgrade by eliminating the requirement that the user grant upfront every permission an app may ever need. Instead, the app does not request permissions until it actually needs them.

Note: For an app to use the new permissions model, it must specify a value of 23 for both uses-sdk-element and compileSdkVersion.

The rest of this document discusses how to use the Android 6.0 (API level 23) permissions model when developing Wear OS apps.

Permission scenarios

Broadly speaking, there are four scenarios you may encounter when requesting dangerous permissions on Wear OS:

  • The Wear app requests permissions for an app running on the wearable device.
  • The Wear app requests permissions for an app running on the handset.
  • The phone app requests permissions for an app running on the wearable device.
  • The wearable app uses a different permission model from its phone counterpart.

The rest of this section explains each of these scenarios. For more detailed information about requesting permissions, see Permission-request patterns.

Wear app requests permission for an app running on the wearable device

When the Wear app requests a permission for an app running on the wearable device, the system displays a dialog to prompt the user for that permission. An app or service can only call the requestPermissions() method from an activity. If the user interacts with your app via a service, such as a watch face, the service must open an activity before requesting the permission.

Your app requests permissions in context when it’s clear why the permissions are needed to perform a given operation. If it's obvious that your app requires certain permissions, your app can prompt for them on launch. If it may not be so obvious, you may choose to provide additional education before prompting for a permission.

If an app or watch face requires more than one permission at a time, permission requests appear one after the other.

Multiple permission screens, one after another.

Figure 1. Permission screens appearing in succession.

Note: From Android 6.0 (API level 23), Wear OS automatically syncs Calendar, Contact, and Location data to the Wear device. As a result, this scenario is the applicable one when Wear requests this data.

Wear app requests phone permission

When the Wear app requests a phone permission, the Wear app must send the user to the phone to accept the permission. There, the phone app can provide additional education to the user via an activity. The activity should include two buttons: one for granting, and one for denying, the permission.

The Wear app sends the user to the phone to grant permission.

Figure 2. Send the user to the phone to grant permission.

Phone app requests wearable permission

When the user is in a phone app and the app requires a wearable permission, the phone app must send the user to the wearable to accept the permission. The phone app uses the requestPermissions() method on the wearable to trigger the system permissions dialog.

The phone app sends the user to the wearable to grant permission.

Figure 3. Send the user to the wearable to grant permission.

Mismatching permission models between wearable and phone app

If your phone app begins using the Android 6.0 (API level 23) model but your wearable app does not, the system downloads the Wear app, but does not install it. The first time the user launches the app, the system prompts them to grant all pending permissions. Once they do so, it installs the app. If your app, for example a watch face, does not have a launcher, the system displays a stream notification asking the user to grant the permissions the app needs.

Permission-request patterns

There are different patterns for requesting permission from users. In order of priority, they are:

  • Ask in context when the permission is obviously necessary for a specific functionality, but is not necessary for the app to run at all.
  • Educate in context when the reason for requesting the permission is not obvious, and the permission is not necessary for the app to run at all.
  • Ask up front when the need for the permission is obvious, and the permission is required in order for the app to run at all.
  • Educate up front when the need for the permission is not obvious, but the permission is required in order for the app to run at all.

Ask in context

Your app should request permissions when it’s clear why they are needed in order to perform a given operation. Users are more likely to grant a permission when they understand its connection to the feature they want to use.

For example, an app may require a user’s location in order to show nearby places of interest. When the user taps to search for nearby places, the app can immediately request the location permission, because there is a clear relationship between searching for nearby places and the need for the location permission. The obviousness of this relationship makes it unnecessary for the app to display additional education screens.

The app requests permission when it's obviously necessary.

Figure 4. Ask in context.

Educate in context

If necessary, you may choose to provide additional education before prompting for a permission. Again, your app should do this in context of a specific action, if it’s unclear why your app needs access to the requested permission in order to complete that action.

Figure 5 shows an example of in-context education. The app does not require permissions in order to start the timer, but an inline educational cue shows that part of the activity (location detection) is locked. When the user taps the cue, a permission-request screen appears, allowing the user to unlock location-detection.

You can use the shouldShowRequestPermissionRationale() method to help your app decide whether to provide more information. For additional details, see Requesting Permissions at Run Time.

When the need for the permission arises, the app explains why the permission is necessary.

Figure 5. Educate in context.

Ask up front

If your app clearly requires a permission in order to work at all, you can prompt for that permission when the user launches the app. For example, a maps app clearly requires access to the device’s location to run its expected activities. No further education is necessary for this permission.

If the app obviously needs a permission to run at all, it can ask for it immediately on
          launch.

Figure 6. Ask up front.

Educate up front

In some cases, the app requires a permission for basic functionality, but the need for that permission is not obvious. In these cases, when the user first starts the app or sets a watch face, the app or watch face may choose to educate the user and ask for the permission.

When requesting a permission on launch, the app can explain why it needs the permission.

Figure 7. Educate up front.

Handle rejection

If a user denies a requested permission that is not critical to an intended activity, do not block them from continuing the activity. If certain parts of the activity are disabled by the denied permission, provide visual, actionable feedback. Figure 8 shows the use of a lock icon to indicate that a feature is locked because the user did not grant permission to use it.

When the user denies permission, a lock icon is shown alongside the associated feature.

Figure 8. Lock icon, showing a feature is locked because of denied permission.

When a previously denied wearable permission dialog appears a second time, it includes a Deny, don't show again option. If the user chooses this option, then the only way for them to allow this permission in the future is to go into the wearable's Settings app.

The system offers to stop requesting permission.

Figure 9. Offer not to show the permission-request screen anymore.

Permissions for services

As mentioned above, only an activity can call the requestPermissions() method, so if the user interacts with your app via a service, for example a watch face, the service must open a background activity before requesting the permission. This activity could provide additional education, or it could simply be an invisible activity that brings up the system dialog.

If your wearable app runs a service that is not a watch face, and the user does not launch an app in which it might make sense to request a permission, you can post an educational notification on the wearable. The notification can provide an action to open an activity that then triggers the system permissions dialog.

Note: This is the only acceptable use of a stream notification for permissions requests.

The user may need to grant a permission when indirectly interacting with an app, via a
          service.

Figure 10. A service requesting permission.

Settings

As with the phone, the user can change a Wear app’s permissions in Settings at any time. Therefore, when the user tries to do something that requires a permission, the app should always first call the checkSelfPermission() method to see if the app currently has permission to perform this operation. The app should perform this check even if it knows the user has previously granted that permission, since the user might have subsequently revoked that permission.

The user can change permissions through the Settings app.

Figure 11. Change settings via the Settings app.