Google has announced a major upgrade to its Android Wear platform which is designed to make smart watches attractive propositions in their own right, rather than appendages to other devices like smartphones.
Engineering director for Android Wear David Singleton announced at Google I/O 2016 that Android Wear 2.0 is being launched to take what smartwatches already do well – fitness tracking and notifications – and improve upon those services.
With fitness, Google is improving its Google Fit platform’s automatic activity recognition, allowing apps to combine information and, by making Android Wear independent of other devices, ensuring that it doesn’t need to be tethered to a smartphone.
“When you want to go for a run you can just go with the watch you’re already wearing. No need to strap your phone in an awkward arm band, and, thanks to the hardware sensors in your watch and automatic activity recognition, apps like Strava will start tracking your time and distance when you start running,” said Singleton. “If you enjoy music while you’re working out you can launch Spotify right from your watchface.”
As well as improving how Android Wear 2.0 works on the fitness front, Google is also planning an upgrade to how notifications are received and answered.
Google is adding three features to Android Wear 2.0, including smart reply, which can discern the context of your message; handwriting recognition, so even the messiest scrawl can be recognised; and a new QWERTY keyboard, all powered by Google’s machine learning.
“Watches are uniquely suited to connect us to those people we love: you’ll never miss a call from your child’s school, or a message from a close friend, and that’s why we’re redesigning key experiences on the watch to be even more intuitive and enabling to new ways to respond to messages just on your wrist,” said Singleton.
Android Wear 2.0 works with either Android or iPhone and Google has said that despite the company wanting the watch to be able to standalone, it is improved by connection to a smartphone.
“Watches with cellular support become even more powerful. You’ll be able to make calls, get help from Google and use your favorite apps right from the watch no matter where your phone is, or even if it’s on or off,” said Singleton.
Android Wear 2.0 is available today for developers and will be launched publicly later in the year.