Android Wear 2.0: a brief description of a huge update
Throwing the biggest new feature right at you — the freshly released Android Wear 2.0 makes all compatible smartwatches independent from companion phones. No more worrying about keeping your Android or iPhone in the pocket during the workout. The devices running this new OS stay connected with the Internet over the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or the LTE connection. Being independent of the smartphones means that smartwatches now have their own standalone Play Store with hundreds of apps that can be downloaded and installed to the gadget directly. The existing Wear 1.x apps are also accessible and fully functional.
The owners of the WiFi-accessible smartphones enjoy direct WiFi connection for some time already, yet these are great news for the people who happen to use Android-powered smartwatches with iPhones and previously lacked the easy app support. Security is ensured by using a specific API for Wearable Data Layer coupled with username and login authentication using the new watch face keyboard, handwriting recognition or voice input through Assistant.
New App launcher design
The latest Android design overhaul found its way into the updated OS for Android smartwatches. Instead of using side swipes to access apps, you can now simply push the side button, and the apps are displayed in an arc, which seems more fitting for the round screen of smartwatches. The list can be reorganized – just drag and drop to move your favorite apps up the arc. The action drawer now resides near the lower edge of the display and provides the content-specific actions, just as you would expect on a smartphone. Zooming in and out are also available for better user experience.
Customizable Watchfaces and Widgets (Complications)
This update introduces watchface widgets, also called Complications. Developers can use the API to supply the watchface Complications with data output from various third-party applications like Spotify or Google Fit, for example.
Changing to another watchface is also one swipe away now. The users can set up three watchfaces, all packed with different apps suiting for their roles — for business hours, workout and home usage, for example — line them up and simply swipe between them.
Messaging and replying via Android Wear 2.0
Messaging was quite inconvenient with small screens of wrist-held smart devices. The new input methods are aimed at rectifying the situation. Google proposes its self-developed keyboard you can swipe in to type a response and provides the API access for third-party keyboard-enabling apps. Handwriting recognition allows easily responding to the messages and the smart replies (a replica to Gmail feature) are also available to make the answering process as effortless and convenient as possible. Just tap on the message received and choose the way to respond to it.
New fitness possibilities
This Android OS for smartwatches release provides more features for fitness apps like Google fit (these features should be supported by the smartwatch itself, of course). The parameters like the number of repetitions in various exercises, distance jogged, calories burnt, heart beat ratio (if the appropriate sensor is present in the device), etc. — all of this can now be calculated and presented on the watch face.
In addition, listening to your favorite music during workout becomes much easier, as this smartwatch OS supports direct streaming from Spotify or other services alike, via the LTE or Wi-Fi connection. Note that the smartphone is not required, as the music is downloaded and played directly through the gadget itself! Calling and messaging capabilities are also available, so that smartwatch becomes the only device needed for staying in touch while enjoying the workout session!
Notifications used to fill the watch face before, making it fill slightly encumbered. Android Wear 2.0 fixes this issue, as notification cards are now displayed as small icons in the lower part of the screen, with numbers showing the quantity of the cards in stack. This helps you manage the notifications easily — like accepting the call before answering to those three messages or changing the playlist. The screen remains clean and unobscured, providing convenient access to other functions of your wrist-held technological wonder.
Android Pay functionality
Full support of Android Pay for contactless payments with NFC-enabled smartwatches is another useful feature the users will enjoy. Just enter your banking card details into the app once and enjoy seamless shopping experience from now on!
Android Assistant for Smartwatches
One of other particularly interesting features is the voice input via Google Assistant. It is activated with standard “OK Google” or by holding down the standby button – and you can ask for directions, set timers, check the weather, etc. More functions are coming soon, but being able to use your smartwatches hands-free — while driving,biking, jogging or working out — this is already a nice feature to have, isn’t it?
Android Wear 2.0 rollout schedule
As we said above, the new version of Android OS for smartwatches is not coming to all devices at once. While newer smartwatches from LG receive the updated OS at once, the older series will have to wait for their turn, and some of the most outdated models will never be covered. Thus said, the owners of such devices now face the choice of adding a new gadget to their collection or envying their friends and colleagues who already did it.
Which way will you choose?