(Pocket-lint) - Android Wear hit the streets about a year ago, as Google's platform for wearables. Today, a major update was announced, as Android Wear moves to fend off Apple Watch.

Android Wear has been incrementally updated since its launch. Like many Google products (Gmail, Docs, Android itself), Android Wear launched feeling like beta software on two devices - Samsung Gear Live and LG G Watch - that felt like platforms for developers to play.

The Android Wear landscape is very different now, with a range of devices from a range of manufacturers, from the Asus ZenWatch, one of our favourites, to the popular Moto 360 and the forthcoming LG Watch Urbane, which will bring with it this latest run of updates. 

LG has announced its Watch Urbane will be the first new smartwatch powered by Android Wear 4.3.

Here's a run down of the new features that are incoming.

Always-on apps

Some Android Wear devices give you an "ambient" mode where the screen is always on. This is essential if you're using it as a watch, as you don't want to have to do anything to read the time.

That convenience is coming to apps, meaning a particular app can stay on the display, rather than your device going to sleep and you having to wake it up again to check that app. This is going to be especially useful for things like mapping directions.

Cleverly, however, to save battery life, it will fade to black and white when you're not looking at it and reverting to colour when you do. This should save you battery life as it's not illuminating the whole display when you're not looking at it.

Easier access to apps and contact

One of the earliest shortfalls of Android Wear was how fiddly it was to get to your apps. Within a few days there was an app to take you to your apps, but it still felt like an oversight on Google's part.

Now they will be a tap away from the home page. Tap the screen and you can now dive to apps or contacts. Google originally placed too heavy a dependency on voice control. This change is a reflection that people just don't always want to talk to devices, especially in public.

Draw your emoji

The world is going emoji mad and Android Wear wants to be at the centre of the action.

There's a new feature that will now let you draw your emoji on the display. You simply hit reply to a message, select "draw emoji" and you can scrawl it, with Google recognising what you've drawn.

Wrist flick navigation

The downfall of a lot of wearable devices is the interaction. Having to trigger something with a button press or tap means that you lose some of the handsfree appeal of that device, because it becomes two-handed - one wearing the watch, the other operating it.

Android Wear will now support wrist flicking as a means of navigation. You simply flick your wrist away from you and you'll skip up a card. That means if you have a bunch of notifications you'll be able to move through them and see what's going on.

Native Wi-Fi support

If your watch has a Wi-Fi connectivity, rather than just Bluetooth, you'll be able to continue to use your watch without having your phone to hand. You phone will need to be connected to a network, but your watch will still work remotely.

That means, for example, you could be in your concrete basement pumping iron and leave your phone upstairs in your bedroom and still get notifications. In fact, as long as your phone is connected somewhere, you can still use Android Wear's functions - including sending messages - as long as you have that Wi-Fi connection.

What watches will get the Android Wear update?

Google says that "all seven" Android Wear devices will get the new features, so that includes Samsung Gear Live, LG G Watch, LG G Watch R, Moto 360, Sony SmartWatch 3, Asus ZenWatch and LG Watch Urbane. Other Android Wear devices are in the pipeline, such as the Huawei Watch.

The LG Watch Urbane will be the first to arrive with the new software, expected on 27 April.

You can read our Android Wear review, or browse our reviews of all the Android Wear devices by clicking on the links above.

Writing by Chris Hall.