Android Wear was launched on March 18, 2014, being based on Android 5.1.1 “Lollipop” and, initially it ran on smartwatches and wearables created by Motorola, Samsung, LG, HTC and Asus, which were paired with smartphones running on Android 4.3 and later and iOS 8.2 and later. The platform will be updated soon and will receive new features, but we’ll talk about them in the following article. Google doesn’t intend to enter Apple’s territory, as watchOS 2 comes installed only on the Apple Watch, so there is no need to compare the two operating systems. However, Google is planning to overhaul its Android Wear OS, to make it more intuitive and to convince the potential customers to spend their money on a smartwatch that runs on this OS.
API 23 SDK has been released for Android Wear and the developers are now able to make experiments and to optimize their applications for Android Marshmallow. Google will use this OS to improve Android Wear and some of the expected new features are granular permissions (applications will ask for permission to access parts of the device, such as the GPS, to use the location). Also, the new SDK will allow Android Wear to know if the smartwatch has a round or square/notround display, and using this tool, the developers will know what resolution should have their applications set at. Google has explained that the resource system will load the “appropriate images, layouts, and strings based on the type of watch you are working with” and that this can be combined with “existing resource qualifiers -hdpi, -tvdpi, -280dpi, and -360dpi for the various Android Wear watches that are currently available”.
Android Wear – New Features
The update that Google is rolling out as an OTA is mostly for the newer watches, and these are the new features that have been included to the Android Wear:
– all watches with a speaker will allow their owners to play sounds and to take calls;
– the users will be able to send messages on WhatsApp, WeChat, Viber, Telegram, and Nextplus by dictating them, or via touch;
– the users can control their watches with one hand, thanks to the new gestures;
– the battery life will be improved;
– new languages will be supported, such as Mandarin, Cantonese, Indonesian, Polish, Dutch and Thai;
– 3G/4G support.
The Android Wear devices don’t have physical buttons, so the users are interacting with them using a combination of touch screen and voice control. If you’re not afraid that people will laugh behind your back when they’ll see you talking to an object attached to your wrist, then you’ll be perfectly fine with using your voice to open applications, go to your device’s settings or to navigate on the internet. If you’re familiar with the “Ok, Google” command, then everything will be very simple. Some voice commands will require a “prefix”, because otherwise, the OS won’t understand what you’re asking. Let’s say that you want to create a note (reminder to do something), it’s necessary to add “take a note” in front of the action (“pick up milk”). So, in the absence of the physical buttons, you will interact with Android Wear OS using only spoken instructions and touch gestures. Also, you will recognize the card-like interface of the Google Now, which shows notifications and alerts one above the other, and to read them, you will just swipe up and down though the list. A card will be dismissed by swiping from left to right, while doing the opposite thing will trigger other options, such as opening an application or responding to a text.
The advantage of having a smartwatch is that you don’t need to take your phone out of your pocket every five minutes in order to check your notifications. You’ll be alerted on your Android Wear device every time you receive alerts for a new email, a calendar event, SMS etc. and you will dismiss these notifications with a swipe. So, if you don’t get to check your notifications, but you’re dismissing them by accident, you won’t see them again.
Android Wear has multiple watch faces, but you can download alternatives from the Google Play store. More and more applications and customization tweaks will be available for the users and the developers are starting to upload their own versions of custom watch faces, which can be downloaded from the official Android store.
In this moment, there aren’t too many applications for Android Wear, and the ones that you’ll find on the Google Play store are focusing mostly on pushing notifications to your watch, they are not very complex. Some applications that you’ll find very useful are The Guardian, Allthecooks Recipes, InstaWeather, Authenticator Plus, Pizza Navigator etc. But, you can also play games on your smartwatch, and we recommend you Flopsy Droid (Flappy Bird clone).