Android Wear 2.0 is a step towards severing ties with your smartphone
Gizmag is live in Mountain View for this year's Google I/O event, and alongside Echo-like assistants and VR software, Google has also treated us with news of a big update for Android Wear. Improvements to messaging, standalone apps and more are on the way.
There are three main parts to the Android Wear 2.0 update, the first of which is information. The small widgets on Android watch faces are going to be compatible with data pulled from any app, so you can have weather forecasts, stock prices or anything else you want live on your wrist, no matter which watch face you pick.
That should make Android Wear much more customizable, and easier to get info without wading through cards or a series of settings screens, and it's an advance on the complications feature that Google rolled out in late 2015 (and is also similar to a feature available on the Apple Watch), casting its net much wider with the any app compatibility.
Next there are improvements to messaging. Smart auto replies, handwriting recognition and a tiny swipe-able keyboard are all being added to Android Wear, so you can choose which awkward wrist interaction you like the best.
Jokes aside, it is nice to see Android Wear give you input options beyond just voice dictation (which Android Wear relied heavily on at the beginning). All three make it easier to use your watch without pulling out your phone, and they worked well in the on-stage demo Google treated us to in San Francisco.
Lastly and perhaps most significantly, Android Wear apps are going standalone, something that's now also mandatory for anyone making an Apple Watch app. All of the Google I/O demos were done without the aid of a connected smartphone, so we should see the smartwatch become a more powerful device in its own right.
Apps will be able to connect to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and cellular networks all by themselves, and features like fitness tracking and music playing can be managed solely from the wearable you have on your wrist – sure to be handy for the morning jog.
While some standalone functionality is already available in Android Wear (like offline music syncing), it sounds like the 2.0 update will enable apps to completely cut the smartphone tether – which also happens to make Android Wear more straightforward to use with an iPhone too (where developers are less likely to put time into Wear compatibility). Expect to see more Wear watches with built-in mobile data to fit with the new software capabilities.
The updated software is coming this Fall (Northern hemisphere), just like almost everything else Google has announced at I/O so far. We'll be bringing you more news from the event as it happens over the next couple of days.