Big Android Wear update brings Wi-Fi, flick gestures and emoji

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Google is rolling out a big update for Android Wear that adds lots of new features (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

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Google is rolling out a massive update to its line of Android Wear smartwatches that adds quite a few features ranging from improvements to emojis to the ability for apps to integrate the platform's "always on" feature.

The first change coming to Android Wear is always-on support for apps. Previously, the always on feature was exclusive to the watch face to make it quicker for users to tell the time without performing any gestures or flourishes. Now this feature can be used within applications, allowing users to leave an app open for quick access to it whenever they raise the watch.

Wi-Fi support is also coming to this update, allowing users to further distance themselves from their smartphones. If the phone is connected to data somewhere else, and the watch has a Wi-Fi connection, users will be able to get notifications, send messages, and use apps directly from the watch. Of course, this feature requires that the watch itself have a Wi-Fi antenna, so not all models will be able to make use of it.

Google is also offering some interface improvements that it promises will allow users to get to the information they want more quickly. For example, it is adding a gesture that allows users to simply flick their wrist to scroll through their stream without using their other hand. The team has also made it easier to get to apps and contacts (previously a pain without using a third-party launcher), now allowing users to tap the screen on the watch face and jump right in.

The last feature, and one that looks quite fun, is the ability to draw emojis on the touch screen and send them to friends quickly. Google promises drawing support for hundreds of emojis, and it also claims that major drawing skills aren't required. It may not be a coincidence that the Apple Watch, scheduled to start delivering this Friday, has integrated emoji and shape-drawing support.

The updates to Android Wear are rolling out to all seven Android Wear models, and each will be getting this update over the next few weeks. The first model to see the new features is the LG Watch Urbane (though that watch isn't yet available in the US), with the others coming "over the next few weeks."

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