Android Wear: What’s new?

Google has announced a raft of new Android Wear features. Here’s what smartwatch owners can look forward to

Taking centre-stage at the developer conference, David Singleton, the director of Android Wear, gave us a glimpse into how the company will set about improving smartwatches, including the LG Watch Urbane and Moto 360.

Revealing that Google has made “key platform investments” over the last year to create genuinely useful apps, Singleton said that Android Wear is ultimately about choice.

Citing the ever-growing selection of watches and straps to choose from, as well as the fact that there are now more than 1,500 watch faces available on Android Wear, he added that Google is enabling users to “express your style”.

The latest version of the operating system will be rolling out during the next few weeks, and will land with a handful of brand new features.

So what are these exactly, and will Android Wear smartwatches catch up with the Apple Watch in terms of popularity?

SEE ALSO: Android M features: What’s new?
aw apps

Always-on apps

One of the biggest talking points is always-on apps. Google wants to make smartwatches more useful, which is music to our ears. Currently, they simply feel like another screen to check notifications on, adding little else in the way of functionality.

Taking always-on screens a step further, Android Wear apps will now stay visible for however long you want to see them for, without forcing you to shake your arm or tap your watch screen to wake it up.  

Users who make heavy use of shopping lists and map directions should reap huge benefits from this move. Google also says that always-on apps won’t affect battery life too much, since they’ll be displayed in low-power mode (black and white).

Glanceable, actionable and effortless is Google’s aim. We’ll see if it manages to hit it.

SEE ALSO: Best Android Wear apps
uber aw

Apps

A fresh batch of apps are also coming, and there are some big names amongst them. Foursquare, Uber and Citymapper are three that Google went into depth with, but we’ll keep you updated when we find out about more.

The first of these will deliver dish suggestions when you walk

into a new restaurant, while Citymapper will make full use of the

always-on apps functionality, showing you personalised travel information such as the

arrival of your train.

Uber is also on its way, and you’ll only need to

say “Okay Google, call a car,” to fire it up. You’ll also be able to

track your cab’s arrival directly on your smartwatch screen. Uber on the Apple Watch is maddeningly slow and buggy, so it’ll be interesting to see if the Android Wear version fares any better.

In

fact, Google says there are now over 4,000 apps built specifically for

Android Wear, and there’ll be “many more” Android Wear watches to choose

from by the end of the year. Singleton wasn’t kidding about choice.

SEE ALSO: Best Apple Watch apps
google fit

Fitness

It’s

not just third-party apps that are getting us excited,

either. Google Fit has been improved and will now cater to more than just runners. As well as tracking walking and running, the app can also automatically recognise

movements including cycling, squats, sit-ups and

push-ups.

In a similar manner, the Golf Swing Analyser app will make use of your smartwatch’s gyroscope

and accelerometer to monitor the tempo, speed and angle of your swing.

New ways to interact

An annoying problem with smartwatches is not being able to browse through cards and notifications when you’ve got your hands full. That’ll be addressed in the upcoming update, however.

Google says users will soon be able to scroll up and down through notifications with simple wrist flicks. No more need to get tomato sauce on your screen.

SEE ALSO: Android Wear vs Apple Watch
Android Wear faces

Emojis

Yep, the world’s become obsessed with emojis, and Google wants to make it easier for you to send them to your friends. With the latest version of Android Wear, you can reply to messages by quickly drawing and sending an emoji to your loved ones, such as a cocktail glass or a gurning little face. Judging from the crowd reaction, it’s going to prove popular. At least for a little while.