What is Google Android Wear and why should you care?
Google has announced a new Android-like operating system and platform specifically designed for wearables, and it's called Android Wear.
Android Wear works with Android's notification system and is now available for developers to preview. Many manufacturers, including Motorola and LG, have already announced they're on board, revealing they will release Android Wear-powered smartwatches within the next few months. This may seem like a lot of news to take in all at once, but Pocket-lint has laid out all the details, images, and product videos below. Read on and sound off in the comments below.
It's certainly an exciting and explosive time for the wearables space, and Google just essentially took it over by storm. C'mon Apple. Time to bring your A-game now.
What is Google's Android Wear?
Google said Android Wear "extends the Android platform" to wearables. That means smartwatches and fitness trackers and other small devices can now run a Google-developed, Android-like operating system and platform called Android Wear. That also means manufacturers like Samsung, LG, and HTC can add Android Wear to their own ranges of next-generation wearables, letting them tap into a common user experience and consistent developer platform.
Is Google making an Android Wear smartwatch?
Possibly. But for right now it is focused on letting other manufacturers use Android Wear on their own smartwatches and wearables. Google confirmed it is already working with Asus, HTC, LG, Motorola, and Samsung, as well as chip makers like Broadcom, Imagination, Intel, Mediatek, and Qualcomm. There's even partnerships with fashion brands like Fossil Group. Each of these companies are hoping to launch Android Wear-powered smartwatches "later this year".
What are some Android Wear features?
In a blog post, published on 18 March, Google described how Android Wear would work on a smartwatch: "Going well beyond the mere act of just telling you the time, a range of new devices along with an expansive catalogue of apps will give you. Watches powered by Android Wear respond to spoken questions and commands to provide info and get stuff done. These new devices can help users reach their fitness goals and be their key to a multiscreen world," explained Google.
Google said Android Wear works with Android's "rich notification system" and that many apps will already work well. You could therefore expect to load a Facebook for Android Wear app on an Android Wear smartwatch, for instance, and then you could access your Facebook notifications - just as you normally would with the Facebook for Android app on an Android smartphone.
Apart from social networking apps, potential applications include using an Android Wear-powered smartwatch to retrieve the latest posts, notifications, and updates from your messaging apps, as well as shopping, news, and photography apps. The list goes on.
With Android Wear, you'll be able to speak your questions and hear answers. You could also speak commands and complete basic tasks. That's because Android Wear supports the "OK Google" functionality.
You could therefore say "OK Google, what time does my flight leave?" or "OK Google, send a text" or "OK Google, set an alarm". Your Android Wear-powered smartwatch would then immediately serve up flight details, write and send a text, or open the alarm app and save your wake time, respectively.
Android Wear will let you access and control other devices. Again, just say “OK Google” to, let's say, load and play a music app on your smartphone. You could also cast a movie to your television. The possibilities are endless for developers (and you).
An Android Wear-powered smartwatch will give you the ability to monitor your health and fitness by letting you use reminders and fitness summaries to reach exercise goals. You can expect support for your favourite fitness apps, meaning you'll also be able to access data like speed, distance, and time for running, cycling, walking, and more.
Want to see Google Wear in action?
Google has published a brief teaser video to show consumers how Android Wear works. The company released a similar type of video when it first teased Google Glass in early 2013. Check out the new video below.
What is Moto 360?
Almost immediately after Google announced Android Wear, Motorola, a company Google sold to Lenovo in early 2014, announced the Moto 360. It is a smartwatch described as a "truly modern timepiece, designed by Motorola, powered by Android Wear".
Apart from giving you the time and date, the Moto 360 provides alerts and notifications, tells you who’s emailing or calling, and responds to your voice via "OK Google" support. Check out the gadget's teaser video below. Motorola said the Moto 360 features an iconic design, with a "round face and premium materials".
Motorola's Moto 360 will launch in a variety of styles in summer 2014, starting in the US. More details are available on the new Moto 360 website. There's no word yet on pricing or hardware specifications.
What is the LG G Watch?
Just like Motorola, LG hasn't skipped a beat: Say hello to the Android Wear-powered LG G Watch. LG said the wearble will be compatible with a wide range of Android smartphones, and it should be available in the second quarter of 2014. There's no word yet on global availability, pricing, or hardware specifications.
Additionally, LG engineers worked closely with Google from the initial stages of development to ensure that the LG G Watch worked perfectly with Android Wear, making this smartwatch the fourth device that LG has developed in close collaboration with Google.
What is the Android Wear Developer Preview?
If you’re a developer and want to know more about Android Wear, check out the new Developer Preview page at developer.android.com/wear. Developers can go there to sign up and download an Android Wear Developer Preview, and then they can tailor their existing app notifications for Android Wear. Google said it is focused on wearables.
"You can use the emulator provided to preview how your notifications will appear on both square and round Android wearables," explained Google. "The Developer Preview also includes new Android Wear APIs which will let you customize and extend your notifications to accept voice replies, feature additional pages, and stack with similar notifications."
More information about the Android Wear Developer Preview is available in the introductory video below. You can also learn about the developer features of Android Wear by going to the Android Developers blog, where there is a specific playlist of DevBytes videos with demos and discussions on code snippets.