We didn't hear much about Android Wear at the latest Google I/O, with the platform's biggest update having already arrived earlier in the year (around the time the Apple Watch launched). But today we heard about Wear's next big update, rolling out just in time for holiday gadget-shopping mania.
The big focus is watch faces, which get a little more advanced and customizable in the new Android Wear v1.3 update. Google announced three new ones today, which may not sound like much, but they give us a glimpse of the kinds of things that the update lets developers do.
The Bits face (above) showcases how much info devs can cook into the watch's main screen. A series of small circles sit on the main clock face, giving you glanceable info – with more detail just a quick tap away. For example, a weather icon shows the current temperature, but you can tap that bubble to instantly get the forecast. Likewise a mail icon will show your inbox's current unread count, but a tap on that lets you see the actual messages.
The complications are customizable, so you can decide whether calendar events, daily steps taken or battery life is best suited to your LG Watch Urbane's or Moto 360's handsome mug. This is, incidentally, very similar to how Apple Watch faces handle complications.
The new Under Armour watch face (above) folds this new functionality into fitness tracking. The standard face shows the time along with another variable underneath, which will (with a tap) switch among distance, steps or calories.
The theme remains the same: pertinent info at a quick glance, more info with a quick tap.
The Together watch face (below) looks like a direct answer to the Apple Watch's digital touch (that's the feature lets you send love taps and heartbeats to loved ones who are also wearing the watch). The Android Wear alternative shows an ever-present bubble with the contact's face on it; tap that to quickly share photos, sketches or emojis, which they'll see on their own Together watch face.
Like with Apple's approach, it's using wearable tech to (at least in theory) create a sense of intimacy, no matter how far apart two people are.
Google says the Android Wear 1.3 update will roll out to Wear watches "in the coming weeks." Since we haven't seen many new Wear watches this year, this timing could also be ripe for some big smartwatch releases at IFA, early next month (2nd-gen Moto 360, anyone?).