Google has released the first big update to Android Wear, and the software is essentially trying to get rid of your phone.
The update includes offline storage for your music, direct Bluetooth pairing, and GPS support. Although these features might not seem too dazzling at first, they indicate Google wants your Android Wear watch to be a standalone device and a better fitness tracker.
What is Android Wear?
Android Wear is a version of Android, designed specifically for smartwatches and other wearables.
The platform debuted in March 2014, with several companies (like Motorola, Samsung, LG, HTC, and Asus) announced as hardware partners. Some of them have since released square- and round-faced watches.
Has Google updated Android Wear at all?
A software update for Android Wear began rolling out on 23 October. It is considered the first big update to Android Wear.
What's new and different in the first update?
More music, less tethering
Google wants Android Wear watches to work without being connected to phones. The first update to Android Wear marks the beginning of that goal.
New software is allowing Android Wear watches to directly connect with Bluetooth headsets and play music downloaded from the Google Play Music app. The key aspect is that Android Wear watches can now do these functions, even if they are offline and not connected to smartphones.
The update not only brings offline playback for your music, but also the ability to save music directly to your Android Wear watch (via Google Play Music). Keep in mind current Android Wear watches - Moto 360, LG G Watch, and Samsung Gear Live - only have 4GB of built-in storage.
Run, Android Wear, run!
The other new feature in the update is GPS. Starting today, Google said Android Wear will support watches that have built-in GPS sensors.
That means, whenever you feel like going for a jog, you can connect to a Bluetooth headset in order to hear offline-saved tunes through Google Play Music, then load your favourite running app on your watch, and head out the door to sweat - all while leaving your smartphone at home.
Once again however the current crop of Android Wear watches have limitations. More specifically, none of them feature GPS radios and therefore can't make use of GPS support in Android Wear. That said, along with today's update, Google announced Sony SmartWatch 3 pre-orders.
The SmartWatch 3 will be the first Android Wear watch to feature GPS radios. You can pre-order one right now through Verizon for $250, while Google Play Store should offer the chance to pre-order soon as well.
Apps, apps, and more apps
There are tonnes of Android Wear apps now available, or so Google has claimed. The company said "tens of thousands of apps" are now enhanced for Android Wear. And to help you easily find those new Android Wear apps, Google has created eight app collections in Google Play. They include:
- Health and Fitness
- Travel and Local
- Misc (More apps)
Are bigger updates on the way?
According to The Wall Street Journal, Android's director of engineering previously said today's Android Wear update would be the first of many coming over the next year. Future updates should focus on better battery life, improved notifications, and refined voice recognition.
How can you update Android Wear devices?
Google said today's update will roll out to existing Android Wear watches over the next "few" days. The update is an over-the-air update and should therefore automatically download and install. Your watch should also automatically restart after updating itself.