Google Highlights Coming Android Wear Improvements

Posted on February 7, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 0

Google Highlights Coming Android Wear Improvements

Google this week highlighted some updates it is bringing to Android Wear “over the next few weeks,” including new gestures, voice control, and improved call and message support.

I assume Google is able to update Android Wear whenever it wants, since the devices are not bound by the carriers’ need to control over-the-air updates. Looking at my most recent Android Wear device, the Moto 360, I can see that’s on Android Wear version 1.3, which is based on Android 5.1.1. (A 1.4 version is out in the wild, too, complicating things.) This makes me further curious whether the coming update—which seems minor to me—is Android 6-based. (I’m guessing no.) But we’re closing in on the two-year anniversary of the platform—Android Wear first arrived in March 2014—and I assume some Android 6-based update could be expected this year.

Anyway, Google’s official announcement about this next update is to the point. The following changes are coming:

New navigation gestures. While Android Wear sports what I think is the best smart watch UI already, with simple left/right, up/down, and press/hold and side button interactions, Google is adding navigational gestures next. “Scrolling up and down your card stream is as simple as flicking your wrist,” the firm says. “You can also expand a card, bring up your apps, or return home to your watch face with a push, lift or shake. You’ll be able to stay connected to what’s important, while keeping your phone (or other hand) in your pocket.” That seems like a lot to learn, but you can find out more about wrist gestures on the Android Wear help site.

Send messages with your voice. Android Wear already supports voice, of course, and “OK, Google” is probably a favorite feature for wannabe Dick Tracys. But with this next update, Google is adding the ability to send voice messages through OK, Google with compatible apps like Google Hangouts, Nextplus, Telegram, Viber, WeChat, and WhatsApp. “Running late for lunch?,” Google asks. “Just say ‘OK Google, Send a WhatsApp message to Nathan: I’ll be right there’.”

Better support for phone calls and voice messages. Today, any Android Wear users can screen phone calls from their watch face. But if you have a newer device with a built-in speaker—currently the the Huawei Watch and the 49mm version of the ASUS ZenWatch 2—you will be able to do more. “Thanks to speaker support, you can now make and take calls over Bluetooth,” Google explains. “And you can listen to audio/video messages with apps like Glide.”

This all sounds very nice. I’m curious to see when/if it shows up on the Moto 360.


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