Google has announced a major update to Android Wear, in a somewhat thunder-stealing effort given that this is the week during which the Apple Watch will launch (Cupertino’s smartwatch comes out this Friday).
David Singleton, Director of Engineering, Android Wear, detailed the changes that are being made in several blog posts (on the Google blog, and official Android blog). So what’s new?
Wi-Fi support is now on board, meaning that an Android Wear smartwatch with integrated Wi-Fi will be able to hook up to its controlling smartphone via Wi-Fi – so you’ll be able to roam far away from your handset, providing your phone is on and has a data connection, and your smartwatch is hooked up to a Wi-Fi network. This is a major boon in terms of convenience, of course, allowing users to still get notifications, messages, and to use apps no matter where their phone is relative to the watch – providing both devices are hooked up online as mentioned.
Google has also decided to make apps always-on if the user requires – that means apps will stay visible on the display if you need them, rather than disappearing when you drop your arm.
Various UI refinements have also been implemented, so Android Wear users don’t have to touch the display to scroll through news and notifications – you can just flick your wrist to navigate this stream. Google has also introduced the ability to draw tons of different emoji directly on the watch screen – the emoji in question will be recognised (from a bank of hundreds) and then sent via a message.
So when can you expect these goodies to arrive? They’ll be rolling out to the various Android Wear smartwatches on the market over the next few weeks, Google says – with the LG Watch Urbane being the first device to get the upgraded software.