Google announced today that Android Wear 2.0 will be available on all supported watches “in the coming weeks.” If you’d like to get a faster start with the new platform, the first Android Wear 2.0 devices, the LG Watch Style and Sport, are shipping later this week.
“While traditional watches tell the time, Android Wear watches make the most of your time,” Google VP David Singleton explains in a new post to the Android Wear blog. “In an instant, you can check when and where you’re meeting a friend, whether you’ll need an umbrella tonight, or how many minutes you’ve been active today, all without reaching for your phone.”
Android Wear 2.0 includes the following improvements:
Improved always-on watch face. The always-on watch face can now be personalized with information and actions from your favorite apps, Google says. “Simply glance at your wrist to check your next appointment, stock performance, progress on fitness goals, or whatever is important to you,” Mr. Singleton writes. “A quick tap on your watch face lets you instantly order an Uber ride, start a workout, or get in touch with your significant other.”
Google Assistant. With Android Wear 2.0, a hands-free version of Google Assistant is coming to your wrist. “Ask your Google Assistant about the weather or remind yourself to bring an umbrella,” Singleton explains. “Make a restaurant reservation or navigate to work. You can even update your shopping list right from your wrist. To ask for help, just hold down the power button on your watch or say ‘Ok Google’.” Google Assistant will be available in English and German initially and then in other languages in the coming months.
Google Fit improvements. As with Apple Watch, Google is tilting the Android Wear experience to favor its most common use case: Fitness. So Google Fit is now preinstalled and lets you track your pace, distance, calories burned and heart rate as you’re walking, running or cycling. It will also let you measure weight-lifting repetitions, plus push-ups, sit-ups and squats.
On-watch apps. As with Apple Watch’s watchOS, Android Wear 2.0 is picking up a new kind of app that can run right on the watch. AccuWeather, Android Pay, Bring!, Foursquare, Google Fit, Google Messenger, Google Play Music, Lifesum, Robinhood, Runkeeper, Runtastic, Strava, Telegram, Uber, and many more are available, as are built-in apps like phone and messaging.
Messaging improvements. Google has made it easier to read and respond to messages right from the watch. Now, when you receive a message using Facebook Messenger, Glide, Google Messenger, Hangouts, Telegram or WhatsApp, you can expand the notification and tap to respond by dictating, typing or handwriting your answer, or by drawing an emoji, Google says. You can also use Smart Reply to respond more discretely; it suggests different responses based on the message you received.
More functionality over cellular. On cellular-equipped watches, you can also link to your phone calls and tech messages, stream Google Play Music, and more.
If you want to get started with Android Wear 2.0 right away, the LG Watch Style and LG Watch Sport—designed in collaboration with Google—will become available for sale starting on Friday.
The LG Watch Style is described as “thin, light, beautiful to look at, and comfortable to wear.” It is available in three finishes—silver, rose gold and titanium—and is compatible with snap-and-swap 18mm leather and silicone bands.
The LG Watch Sport is the most powerful Android Wear watch yet, Google says. It is available in titanium and dark blue, and comes with a high performance elastomer strap, NFC for payments, GPS for tracking exercise and navigation, a heart rate sensor for your workouts, and cellular connectivity. It also has dedicated buttons for Google Fit and Android Pay, plus a rotating power button for launching your favorite apps.
No word yet on pricing, but we should know soon.
By the way, compatible watches that will get Android Wear 2.0 include ASUS ZenWatch 2 & 3, Casio Smart Outdoor Watch, Casio PRO TREK Smart, Fossil Q Founder, Fossil Q Marshal, Fossil Q Wander, Huawei Watch, LG Watch R, LG Watch Urbane & 2nd Edition LTE, Michael Kors Access Smartwatches, Moto 360 2nd Gen, Moto 360 for Women, Moto 360 Sport, New Balance RunIQ, Nixon Mission, Polar M600, and TAG Heuer Connected.