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Wear and Chromium

At OSCON this year, I did a demo of something that I just hacked up hours prior, and it worked...while I was on stage.

During the presentaion about Third-Party WebViews, I showed the power of a third-party webview by deploying Cordova 4.x on the Samsung Gear Live watch running Android Wear. This initially worked, and I was able to do Chrome Debugging on the watch itself without any ill effects. However, since I presented on the last day of the conference, I had to quickly grab my stuff, hop into my car in the basement of the Oregon Convention Centre and head back to Vancouver. That's where we start running into problems.

I've been dogfooding the Samsung Gear Live for a week, and I have to say that Android Wear is alpha at best. Apparently this is what they said at Google IO, but they didn't say this to anyone who actually purchased one. Luckily, this was purchased to see if we could get Cordova on the device, so it served its purpose. So, when stuck in traffic on the I5 in Seattle, I check my watch, and the screen is dead.

WTF? What Happened

Turns out that running a WebView or anything else that takes a lot of memory causes Android Wear itself to force quit. I got a notification saying that Android Wear had stopped and a "Cancel" and "OK" screen when I tapped the screen. I eventually was able to restart the watch at a rest stop, but it's clear the reason that Google removed WebView from Android for Android Wear was the huge memory footprint. The question now is, what has a bigger footprint? Chromium or ANT? I'm certain that Crosswalk was never meant to be put on a phone, but if there was a stripped-down version of Chromium that made sense, or even better, a way to run a watch that's based on a Web-Only OS, we could do some interesting things.

So, no Cordova on Wear?

The demo was literally that, just a demo. Good demos exist to show what's possible, to get people to think about new things and to get people excited about working on cool stuff. I'm hoping that my demo did that, but that was in no way any production code. I do not recommend shoving Crosswalk onto a watch. I also think that Android Wear is extremely buggy, and hard to develop for, but is still the most interesting thing to happen in the Wearable Space since FitBit first started tracking steps. Actually being able to develop software for wearables is much better than just buying a closed microcontroller encased in epoxy and rubber and strapping it to a body part.