Google today announced the second major update for Android Wear that will bring a lot of new functionality to existing Android Wear smartwatches out there. This includes support for hand-drawn emojis, Wi-Fi, new low power mode for apps and hand gestures.
While in certain areas Google is playing catch up with the Apple Watch, there are certain areas where it is able to further extend its lead over Apple’s platform.
The biggest highlight of this update is the ability to draw emojis on the screen, which will be automatically recognised by Android Wear and converted into the appropriate emoji. In most of the situations, this will be better than trying to awkwardly reply to messages from your friends using Voice Actions in public. As Google’s lead product manager for Wear, Jeff Chang, reveals to The Verge, this feature was born from one of the company’s Hackathon event. It has even included the technology behind this feature in its recently released Handwriting Input app for Android.
— Android (@Android) April 20, 2015
Additionally, the update will bring Wi-Fi support to Android Wear thereby allowing Android Wear smartwatches with the appropriate hardware to talk to Android smartphones over Wi-Fi. Considering that Bluetooth has a very limited range, this is surely a welcome addition. Google states that both devices don’t need to be connected to the same Wi-Fi network as the update will allow Android Wear smartwatches to connect to any open Wi-Fi hotspot and sync notifications and other data to the Android device it is connected to.
Google is also introducing a new gesture system with this update that will allow Android Wear users to interact with their smartwatch without touching the screen. They will be able to jump to the next card in their stream via an outward flick, while an inward flick will take them back to the previous card. The company affirms that it has tested the gesture extensively to make sure that it is not activated by mistake. As a precaution, it will also be providing an option to turn the gestures off to users.
Lastly, the update will allow third-party apps to make use of the low-power Ambient screen. Developers will be able to control the refresh rate along with the content that they want to display on the screen in this mode. Google used this low-power mode to display the watch face earlier, but it is now opening it up to third-party apps and developers as well.
The first Android Wear smartwatch to ship with this update will the LG Urbane, while other Android Wear smartwatches will get it via an update that is scheduled to rollout from next month. It will, however, be up to the OEM of the smartwatch to enable the dormant Wi-Fi hardware that is present in the watch.[Via The Verge]