Google has launched Android Wear 2.0 and it comes with more than a few notable updates. Alongside the overhaul, Google and LG have released two watches to properly show off what it can do, the LG Watch Sport and LG Watch Style.
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The biggest improvement it has over version 1.5 is the ability to run native apps without the need for a smartphone nearby. Several other features come in a close second, like the customizable watch face complications, embedded Play Store and the welcome update to Google Fit.
- Check out the best Android Wear smartwatches 2017
- What is it? Google’s wearable platform
- When is it out? Update is rolling out to watches now
- What will it cost? Absolutely nothing, as long as you have a compatible watch
Android Wear 2.0 has now launched, and will be landing on compatible legacy watches in the coming weeks. It won’t cost you anything, but not all Android Wear watches will be getting the update.
The list is extensive, so there’s a good chance your watch will be on it, and that’s good news, as Android Wear 2.0 is a major update, as we’ll explain below.
Android Wear might share a name with standard Android but the layout of the interface is quite different, as it’s built for much smaller devices and designed with hands-free use in mind.
It’s based on the latest version of Material Design, leading to flatter icons and darker themes, and making for a far more readable interface – which is great, as no-one wants to be staring at their wrist for minutes on end.
Much of what Android Wear pushes to view is just a copy of the notifications you’re used to seeing on your phone. But it also delivers some thoughtful, personalized notifications. Traveling to a new city? It will automatically set you up with the weather there, as well as back home.
Just as slick, Android Wear figures out which sports team you like based on your Google searches and provides real-time sports scores.
These just-for-you cards are one of the high points of Android Wear. It makes it feel like it’s more than just a simple supplement to your phone.
And, if you have a watch with NFC built-in, you’ll also be able to make use of Android Pay direct from your wrist.
We mentioned above that you can change your watch face with a swipe, and with around 250 available right now and third parties able to create more there are plenty to choose from. For inspiration, check out our list of the best Android Wear watch faces.
While swipes and other gestures are arguably the main way you’ll interact with Android Wear, you can also use voice commands.
This is the new and improved version of Google’s voice-controlled AI, and in many ways it’s stronger than Siri (which the Apple Watch relies on). A key advantage of Assistant is that it understands context, allowing you to ask follow-up questions.
All options considered, “Okay, Google” is the easiest way to ask the watch to search the web, pull up a song, display your daily steps, take your heart rate, make a new reminder, navigate to a place or set a timer or alarm. It even generally does a good job of sending texts and emails.
If apps are what you’re after, Android Wear has plenty to choose from – and that list is constantly growing.
For example, the Spotify app lets you skip and pause tracks that are playing on another device, Google Maps brings turn by turn navigation to your wrist and Tinder offers all the same swipey fun as the smartphone version.
These standalone apps are also faster than the phone apps of old, and if you’re using an iPhone you’ll now be able to download apps to your Android Wear watch.
How much you can get done while leaving your phone at home really depends on which Android Wear watch you have though. Grab one with LTE and GPS and leaving your phone at home becomes a realistic scenario.
Android Wear fitness
That’s largely thanks to Google Fit, which has been updated too, and now offers a wider range of workouts with which you can punish yourself. The selection ranges from basics like walking and running to the likes of treadmill running, aerobics, and stair climbing machine.
Google Fit also supports a number of ‘complications’, so you can add widgets to your watch face for step counts or other metrics, as well as shortcuts to favorite workouts.
And even if you’re not a workout fiend and just want a basic fitness tracker, Google Fit and Android Wear 2.0 have you covered.
Of course, you’re not limited to just Google Fit, you’ll also find the likes of Endomondo, Strava and Runtastic Pro available for your Android Wear smartwatch. These don’t offer the full range of features afforded by their smartphone counterparts, but they track your activities and in some cases can do so without even being connected to your phone.
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While Android Wear software is uniform across devices, the hardware can vary quite a lot. Screens can be square or circular and smartwatch designs range from fitness-focused to smart and classy.
You can check out the latest and greatest devices in our list of the best Android Wear smartwatches, but highlights include the LG Watch Sport, which is packed full of features including GPS, a heart rate monitor and even mobile connectivity, the LG Watch Style, which pares back the features for a sumptuous finish, and the Asus ZenWatch 2, bringing you Android Wear on a budget.