At Google’s developer conference, the company announced the next generation of its Android Wear platform. This is the biggest update to Android Wear, making it even more powerful – and more useful – than ever.
Android Wear 2.0 improves the platform in three aspects: the watch face, messaging, and fitness. They don’t actually sound like a lot, but the crucial factor is actually what the user will not see: Android Wear 2.0 has been developed to be able to work a lot more independently – unlike the current version that loses a lot of functionality when it is not paired to a phone.
It is for this reason that Android Wear 2.0 will work even better for smartwatches that have constant connectivity, such as the LG G Watch Urbane with LTE. Android Wear 2.0 opens support for standalone apps built for the platform, negating the need to constantly be tethered to a smartphone.
This way, apps like Spotify will continue to stream music even when you don’t have your phone strapped to your arm when you go for a run.
Speaking of running, avid runners will be excited to know that Android Wear 2.0 will feature automatic activity recognition. So, Android Wear 2.0 smartwatches will instantly open your favourite running app and initiate a workout the moment you begin your run, or open Spotify to play your running playlist.
Meanwhile, these apps now have greater access to your watch faces. Android Wear 2.0 opens up watch faces to support more apps to place tiny widgets for useful, glanceable information. You can have any watch face show data pulled from any app. So for instance, you can add a calorie counter widget from LifeSum, a to-do list from Todoist, and other widgets from virtually app that’s useful for you. Tapping on these widgets opens up the app.
Android Wear 2.0 also tries to tackle the age-old issue with smartwatches: messaging on such a small screen. Google is offering three alternatives here, and the most useful by far would be Google’s Smart Reply, powered by its massive machine learning capabilities. Contextual replies automatically pop up when messages come in, offering handy replies that are not only relevant, but organic (i.e. does not sound like a robot).
If that’s not for you (or if Google Smart Reply fails), you can reply via a tiny swipe-based keyboard, again powered by Google’s machine learning algorithms that improve prediction the longer you use it. If all else fails, you can simply write using your fingers.
Android Wear 2.0 will begin seeding to smartwatches later this year, but developers can get early access by downloading the new beta update here.