Google is in Mountain View showing off its latest developments at Google I/O, and it has revealed a major update to Android Wear is on the way.
Called Android Wear 2.0, the new software for Android wearables will bring a Material Design-themed overhaul, standalone apps, and improvements to watch faces, messaging, and fitness. Keep in mind Google has released three major updates to Android Wear since it launched two years ago, but this version brings a number jump that can only mean big changes are coming.
Here's what's new: Android 2.0 will enable some watches to do more without a phone attached, thanks to standalone apps. With this new capability, apps can communicate directly over the Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or cellular, meaning some watches will be able to do more without having to be tethered to a phone. Google said this will result in a "faster, richer on-watch experience."
Watches with cellular support, for instance, can let you make calls and get help from Google - no matter where your phone is located. The ability to take advantage of this feature depends on your watch and the features it supports. Early Android Wear watches don't have Wi-Fi or cellular connectivity, but recent watches and new watches can now be less dependent on phones.
So, with AndroidWear 2.0, apps on your watch can be standalone and have direct network access to the cloud. As for those watch face improvements, there are several third-party faces available, but a new Complications API will now let developers include data from other apps on their watch faces. You'll be able to tweak these watch faces, too, and choose which data you want to show.
Google said any watch face will be able to show data from any app. They can show, for instance, your calories burned, steps taken, incoming messages, or whatever. Also, tapping on individual complications will launch the full watch app for more information. Speaking of incoming messages, Wear 2.0 adds two new input methods: a swipe-style keyboard, and handwriting recognition.
The handwriting mode will let you draw out letters on your watch’s screen in order to write messages. You'll also have access to new Smart Replies. And finally, Google has improved fitness in Android Wear 2.0. It is getting automatic activity recognition and a Google Fit API so data can sync with like a running app. Google's also expanding the ways you can listen to music.
Not only will apps will be able to now detect when you begin walking, running, or biking, but because apps can now be installed right on the phone, Android Wear watches with built-in LTE support like LG’s latest Watch Urbane can start Spotify and stream music from the cloud right to your Bluetooth headset without you having to be tethered to a phone.
Google said the Android Wear 2.0 preview is now out for developers, and that these new experiences will launch for consumers this autumn.