Smartwatches are the newest direction where innovations are headed. Smartphones got to a phase where revolution isn’t quite possible (although this could be changed with the devices like Fairphone and project Ara) and tablets haven’t seen any major improvement for almost two years. On the other hand, smartwatches are still in the development phase; although they have landed on the mass market, a huge part of their design and features is still under constant R&D. And the most important one, the operating system on which they run, is under a constant wave of improvements. One of the major smartwatch operating systems, Android Wear traveled a long way, from its prototype state showing technology of tomorrow, to a fully working, but not fully independent OS it is today. But during the recent I/O event, Google showed us that they have big plans for their smartwatch OS.
Major Android Wear Changes
The most important (and most obvious) change is the new design philosophy that follows Google’s own Material Design formula. Since smartwatch offers a bit different user experience than a smartphone, Material Design rules applied on Android are not followed completely and adjustments have been made where needed; Keyboard, for example, now perfectly follows round smartwatch displays and lists now curve along, following round arches of displays. Google provided developers with the guidelines that will help them in creating a new kind of apps, apps that are explicitly developed for Android Wear and its new design philosophy.
Android Wear is also full of colors now, and every notification reflects the main color of the app they originate from. Notifications are now placed on the bottom, easily accessible for users to view them; the whole notification system is completely rehashed, putting the ease of access to the first place.
The last big change in Android Wear 2.0 is that smartwatches now don’t have to be paired with the second device (smartphone) in order to access the web, which means that you don’t have to rely on your smartphone to provide assistance to a smartwatch. You can now go out without a smartphone and let the smartwatch do all the work, at least when going out for a short period of time. Instead of being installed on the phone, apps can now be installed directly to watch, and apps for the watch will no longer be listed in the app list of your phone. Great news for all iPhone users that own Android Wear watch, since now they can browse Play Store right from their wrist, and the ability to finally install third-party apps.
Other Notable Updates
Android Wear now supports Smart Reply feature, reducing the effort needed when to have to respond to many messages or emails. The on-screen keyboard with its tracing feature, now got better word prediction capability, because you don’t want to tap a bunch of letters on that tiny keyboard. Google promises the prediction feature is so good that you’ll only need to type a letter or two before prediction kicks in and offer you the right word. This is really important because one of the main disadvantages of every smartwatch OS at the moment is the problematic typing, and too much time spent when replying to a message. When a message is received, it is shown full-screen on watch display and when decide to reply you need to simply tap on it and Wear will show you additional action you can perform. If Google wants to make smartwatches more independent, the first thing to do is making typing messages easier.
Android Wear 2.0 also supports handwriting, based on the same foundation Google is used in its handwriting input on Android.
New Complications API allows for watch faces developers to include data from other applications, unlike now where they have to construct a new integration for every single new app data they want to use, saving them time and elevating the new Android Wear philosophy that’s putting emphasis on information.
Fitness tracking capabilities are overhauled with the new Fit Platform Activity Recognition API, recognizing the type of activity you are doing and (if needed) launching the right app for you (like Fitbit app if you started a stroll). New Wear version brings better battery management, promising longer battery life, the one of the main downsides of Android Wear at the moment.
Android Wear 2.0 (or is it better to call it just Wear now?) is miles ahead the previous generation. Numerous tweaks, a complete design overhaul, better battery management, huge changes under the hood, and a plethora of new features make it an attractive choice for every smartwatch loving person. But, at the moment, the market is just too narrow; people don’t really buy them in large numbers. The goal of new Wear is to attract new users who didn’t though that they can use a smartwatch. With the increased independence from a smartphone, and if battery span problems are dealt with, smartwatches could really become a lucrative market. Google provided excellent software, now it’s up to hardware manufacturers to implement it in the right way won their future smartwatch models. If they succeed, we may stop looking at our smartphone screens in a few years and start wearing all that we need on our wrists.