Google has announced the biggest-ever update to Android Wear, its smartwatch operating system.
Android Wear already includes an always-on option, that allows you to tell the time without having to do anything with your wrist or interact with the watch face at all, but this is now being expanded to include apps. Instead of disappearing when you drop your wrist, apps will now remain open for as long as you need them. Unless you are actively looking at the watch face, the screen will stay in greyscale. Full colour will be reserved for active moments in order to save battery.
Another big change is that Android Wear now supports Wi-Fi. This means that as long as your watch is connected to a Wi-Fi network and your phone has a data connection, they can be in completely separate locations and still remain connected. Not only will this allow you to receive notifications, send messages and have full use of all apps remotely, thanks to Google’s cloud-based back end, but it will also help you locate your phone, should you be unintentionally separated from it. Many Android Wear devices already support Wi-Fi, but have been waiting for this software update to be able to take advantage of it.
Google has also introduced some new gesture- and navigation-based features into its software that should make it easier for you to use your Android Wear watch. You can now scroll through notifications completely hands-free with a simple flick of the wrist. From the watch face, a simple tap will now take you straight to your apps, increasing the speed at which you can access your contacts and send messages.
Hand-drawn emoji replies
A new reply mechanism has been introduced, which allows you to respond to calls, messages and in hangouts by drawing an emoji on the watch face. “We’ll recognise your work (no art degree required),” promises Google.
These Android Wear updates are due to be rolled out to all of the existing seven Android Wear watches over the next few weeks, starting with the LG Watch Urbane, which will have the software out-of-the-box. The timing of the update can be no coincidence given that the Apple Watch will officially be available from 24 April — only a few days from now.