The smartwatch ecosystem needed Google to step up its game with the Android Wear smartwatch operating system. Ever since Wear was launched in 2014, it has been plagued by issues such as poor battery life. Android Wear smartwatches from the likes of Motorola, Huawei and Asus, for example, struggled because of the clunky software that was not very intuitive.
Google is now rolling out its biggest update for the Wear platform in years, a definitive move perhaps at creating a space for itself in the smartwatch ecosystem. Called Android Wear 2.0, it started rolling out this week.
Watch gets its own apps
With Android Wear 2.0, you will be able to download apps directly on to the watch from the new Play Store that will be available on the wrist. Whether you use an Android phone or are using the watch with an Apple iPhone, apps built for Android Wear 2.0 will work on the watch itself. These will include AccuWeather, Google Fit, Google Messenger, Google Play Music, Runkeeper, Telegram and Uber. Additionally, if your watch has a built-in cellular (3G/4G) connection, you will be able to use watch apps (and make calls, for example), irrespective of where your phone might be at the time.
Time for the Assistant’s magic
The Assistant was exclusive so far to Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones. With the new Wear software, the artificial intelligence feature will also be available on the watch. You will be able to speak with it and get responses for queries as well as suggestions. Ask your Google Assistant about the weather, make restaurant reservations or simply share some content with friends. Initially, Google Assistant will be available in English and German on Android Wear watches, with more languages being added in the coming months.
The Assistant also helps with a new feature called Smart Replies. It will suggest reply options based on the message your friend has just sent you.
Watch faces with relevant information
The refreshed watch faces will now pack in more information. Among the various options you’ll be able to select from, there will be data overlays for information such as calendar appointments, fitness goals and progress, favourite contacts, etc. As a user, you will be able to personalize this completely for your requirements and preferences.
You will also be able to set different watch faces for different times of the day. For example, you might prefer the fitness statistics during your morning jogging routine. Once done, swipe and switch to another watch face that is more tuned for the day in office. In the evening, switch to a more casual one as you head out for dinner with friends.
We do expect the new Wear software to be better optimized in terms of battery life—this has been one of the persistent problems with Android Wear watches, and allowed hybrid smartwatches to gain ground as users looked for a balance between smart features and convenience.
Does your existing watch get the update?
If you have an Android Wear watch that is no more than 18 months old, chances are you should see the update pop up on the watch sometime over the next few days. Some of the existing watches that are confirmed for Wear 2.0 include the Asus ZenWatch 2 and ZenWatch 3, Casio Smart Outdoor Watch, Casio PRO TREK Smart, Fossil Q Founder, Fossil Q Marshal, Fossil Q Wander, Huawei Watch, LG G Watch R, LG Watch Urbane and 2nd Edition LTE, Michael Kors Access Smartwatches, Moto 360 (2nd Gen), Moto 360 for Women, Moto 360 Sport, New Balance RunIQ, Nixon Mission, Polar M600 and TAG Heuer Connected. The LG Watch Sport and LG Watch Style will be the latest watches to run Android Wear 2.0, and should be hitting the markets in some countries soon, though there is no word yet on their availability in India.