April 23, 2015
Google has updated the Android Wear operating system to include wrist controls, Wi-Fi connectivity, and other functionality features. For the first time, smartwatch users won’t have to be tethered to their smartphone because the Wi-Fi connection will allow them to receive text messages and check email on their watches without needing their smartphones nearby. The first Android Wear smartwatches with this technology built-in are expected to begin shipping next month.
The Android Wear update comes just in time to compete with the newly-released Apple Watches, which already include Wi-Fi support and an app launcher, according to The Wall Street Journal. Currently, Android Wear watches connect to smartphones via Bluetooth, which means that the user won’t be able to go too far without their phone.
Now, Android users can go as far as they like as long as their smartphone is on and connected to a Wi-Fi or cellular data network. Some of the first Android Wear watches are too old to support this capability.
Google has added the ability for users to control their smartwatches with the flick of a wrist. If their hands are full, the user can flick their wrist to open the app notifications and Google Now alerts. Then, a flick forward or back will control which direction the stream of notifications scrolls. Another fun feature allows users to send emoji by drawing them directly on the face of their watch.
The update also allows some apps to stay open. Before the update, apps would time out after the user stopped interacting with them. A few apps like Google Maps and Google Keep will stay open, but fade to black-and-white power-saving mode.
Most of these updates will work on existing Android Wear watches from Samsung, LG, Motorola, Sony, Asus and Huawei. The LG Watch Urbane will be the first watch to ship with these new features.