GOOGLE HAS rolled out a major update to the Android Wear operating system, just days before the Apple Watch starts shipping.
The update delivers native support for WiFi, bringing Android-powered smartwatches in line with the Apple Watch.
Android Wear smartwatches currently communicate with Android smartphones over a Bluetooth connection, which has about a 30ft range.
WiFi support built into the software allows users to carry on receiving notifications without being tethered to a handset.
David Singleton, director of engineering at Android Wear, said in a blog post: “Now Android Wear supports watches with built-in WiFi.
“As long as your watch is connected to a WiFi network, and your phone has a data connection (wherever it is), you’ll be able to get notifications, send messages and use all your favourite apps.”
Another new feature is support for always-on apps. Previously, the only ‘app’ that was available on the screen at all times was the watch face for telling the time, but now those wearing an Android-powered smartwatch can keep other apps displaying on the watch face, such as Google Maps.
Singleton added: “When you buy a watch you want it to, well, tell the time. So most Android Wear watches include an always-on screen. No tapping, twisting or shaking required to see what time it is.
“Now we’re expanding this option to apps, so they can stay visible as long as you need them, instead of disappearing when you drop your arm.”
Google has also equipped Android Wear with a handful of other new features, including the ability to scroll through an app stream by flicking the wrist and to draw emoji on a display using the hands.
The LG G Watch Urbane will be the first to be upgraded to the newest version of Android Wear, which will be rolling out to more smartwatches, including the Moto 360 and Sony Smartwatch 3, “over the next few weeks”. µ