Android Wear 2.0 plays catch up with Apple Watch

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You can add third-party complications to your favorite face in Wear 2.0.
Photo: Google

Google today gave us a glimpse at its upcoming Android Wear 2.0 update, which is going to make your smartwatch even smarter. It’s the biggest update to the wearable platform so far, with brand new features and big improvements — some of which were snagged from Apple Watch.

In the same way that Android N is stealing some features from iOS, Android Wear is being improved by some of the features already found on Apple Watch. One of those is the ability to add third-party complications to your watch faces.

Instead of just settling for the complications that come with your desired face, or choosing from a small number of others, you will soon be able to pick complications from other Wear apps. So your favorite face can now show your Todoist tasks and the calories you’ve burned from Lifesum.

Fitness fanatics will also be pleased to see that Google has greatly improved the workout experience with Wear 2.0. Another feature “borrowed” from Apple Watch is automatic workout recognition, so you can go for a run without telling your watch first.

Wear 2.0 also lets you reply to messages in new ways, so you don’t need to pull out your smartphone to quickly respond to a text. Instead, you can draw letters onto the screen, use the tiny swipe keyboard, or choose from one of the improved auto replied.

By far the biggest change in Wear 2.0 is support for standalone apps. Developers will be able to create new watch titles that can take advantage of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular connections to operate completely independently — so a smartphone isn’t required at all.

Finally, Google has delivered Material Design guidelines specifically for Android Wear. This lays out every aspect of Wear software design, from color to typography, and it should mean that watch apps get a whole lot prettier over time.

Android Wear 2.0 will be available to all this fall, but developers can download a preview version today and start building news apps that take advantage of all the improvements.