Google announced its major Android Wear update yesterday at I/O 2016, and the new update brings some changes to the search engine giant's wearables platform that are much needed for it. Among the changes are standalone apps, greater watch face customizations, smart replies, handwriting, and an on-screen keyboard.
First, let's get to the changes Google has made with Android Wear 2.0 that we think are long overdue.
Android Wear 2.0: Watch Face Customizations
Watch face customizations has always been one feature of smartwatch life that consumers never get enough of, but Google has turned things up a notch with Android Wear 2.0: the search engine giant is adding watch face customizations that let you access any information you want to on your watch display -- no matter the info, no matter the watch face. If you want to keep track of your Todoist notifications on your watch face, you can customize your watch face to keep track of Todoist notifications alongside of your distance and heart rate monitoring capabilities.
Google can utilize this capability within Android Wear 2.0 because it controls Android, the most popular and advanced mobile platform in the world. Android Wear users will find this enjoyable: the idea that they no longer have to compromise on what information is accessible on their watch face because of in-built limitations.
Android Wear 2.0 Smart Reply
Smart Reply has become a popular feature on smartphones, letting you send a quick message when you're busy and occupied: whether in a meeting, on a conference call, or simply out with the family and don't want to get distracted from the family moment.
The same can now be used on Android Wear smartwatches. Now, just tap quickly and you're on your way with whatever it is you're doing.
Android Wear 2.0 Handwriting
Some Android Wear users want to write a message quickly instead of typing it. If they want to tell someone that the dinner time is 6PM, they need only handwrite "6PM" now and send it off. Writing quick replies shouldn't take so long.
Android Wear 2.0 now has an on-screen keyboard
Google has finally done something that we applaud Samsung for having done out of the box: Google has added an on-screen virtual keyboard in Android Wear.
The truth of the matter is that on-screen keyboards are intuitive to most of us who love on-screen keyboards on smartphones, and we're glad to see Google bring one to Android Wear.
The problem with Android Wear when it was announced two years ago is that Google did all it could to move consumers to prefer voice command to typing and texting. After discovering that most of us don't want to walk around and talk out loud to our wrists, the company was forced to go back to the drawing board. Google started to revolutionizing tap and touch with its Google Now On Tap back with the launch of Android Marshmallow. Now, Google is bringing some revolution to the Android Wear experience that allows you to type and touch without speaking to Google Now all the time. Of course, Google Now wasn't mentioned at I/O 2016, but was instead replaced in conversation by "Google Assistant."
It's good to see Android Wear become a wearables platform that allows users to make the most of it in a way that fits each individual, not get orders from Google on how to use it.
Android Wear 2.0 brings standalone apps
Android Wear has been mostly about Bluetooth and WiFi, with the company bringing WiFi capabilities to Android Wear last year. Now, though, Google is going beyond this in the hopes of getting consumers worldwide on the smartwatch bandwagon by giving users standalone apps that don't need reliance on a data connection to work out of the box.
Most American consumers have access to internet, but there are places on, say, a marathon run or walk or fitness gym location where internet access is scarce when running. Bluetooth isn't entirely reliable, since you can get away from a Bluetooth connection and lose it quickly after a certain distance away. With standalone apps, though, Android Wear users will have access to their music streaming and playlists without connecting to WiFi or a data plan. Google's having some success with Android Wear and hopes to build on that with Android Wear 2.0.
These are the major announcements about Android Wear 2.0. Google will roll it out in the coming weeks and months, and, though we don't have an exhaustive list of smartwatches eligible to receive Android Wear 2.0, the latest-generation watches (including the second-generation smartwatches such as the Moto 360 and LG Watch Urbane, among others) are slated to get it by default. You can view screenshots and video footage from Google I/O 2016 below.
What changes in Android Wear 2.0 are you most excited about? What new changes did you expect to find that you didn't get? What new changes for Android Wear would you like to propose to Google going forward?