Android Wear update announced just before Apple Watch launch, matching Apple features
20 April 2015

Android Wear update announced just before Apple Watch launch, matching Apple features

Just days before Apple Watch begins shipping, Google is announcing a major software upgrade for Android Wear watches that it must hope will gain uplift from all the Apple Watch marketing hype.

The update Android Wear expands capabilities and from what I see, matches Apple Watch features to set Android Wear to go in a head-to-head fight with Apple.

Wi-Fi

This Android Wear software update adds Wi-Fi support. So now as long as your watch is connected to a Wi-Fi network somewhere, and your phone has its own data connection, you'll be able to get Google Now and other notifications, send messages, conduct voice searches and use favourite apps from your wrist.

The Wi-Fi network that your watch is connected to doesn't have to be the same as the phone's connection. The only caveat is that you will have had to configure the settings for the network you're trying to connect to with the watch on the phone first. But having done so once for a given network, you don't have to do so each time you try to connect to that network.

Wi-Fi enabled watch hardware will be coming soon and will be in the next wave of Android Wear devices.

Hands Free Gestures

New hands-free gesture that lets you flick your wrist in an outward motion to get to the "next card" in an information stream that appears on the watch, or flick inward to get to the "previous card."

wristgesture 500.0

Aways on Screen

The new update also supports an "always-on screen" for the watch that will let you glance down at information on the watch face, without having to tap, twist or do any other kind of gesture to wake up the screen.

alwayson 500

Google is opening this always-on feature to third-party app developers. Apps that take advantage run in an ambient low power black-and-white mode to preserve the battery. You'll get to full colour if you're actively engaging with an app.

Google Maps and Google Keep note-taking apps will be the first to exploit the always-on feature.

A key uses case could be keeping a shopping list visible on the watch face while you wander about the supermarket.

Battery Life

"Battery is a huge priority for Android Wear team” (Jeff Chang, the lead product manager for Android Wear). Expect more battery saving features that squeeze the most out of the tiny watch battery.

Emojis

Another new feature promises to make it simple to respond to messages by drawing an emoji, potentially convenient when you're caught in a situation where responding to a message by voice is impractical.

Easier emojis, by drawing them directly on SmartWatch 3’s display. You’ll be able to simply draw a smiley, symbol or pic with your finger and Android Wear will send back a corresponding emoji.

The emoji recognizer is supposed to be able to determine the shape you intended to draw and match it up with a perfectly drawn emoji. Yikes! Will it work?

Watch Faces

Android Wear has more than 1,000 watch faces created by developer. There are thousands of Android Wear apps created since last summer.

Apple hasn't opened up custom watch faces for the AppleWatch to outside developers, at least not yet. This is typical of the open Android platform versus the close Apple ecosystem.

Categories

Wearables