Android Wear 2.0 is launching in February. The next-gen version of Google’s smartwatch operating system is expected to arrive on a duo of new LG smartwatches – the LG Watch Sport and LG Watch Style – and will then be rolled out to many existing Wear smartwatches, along with a plethora of new tech-timepieces that have been detailed.
Read on to get up to speed with everything you need to know about the impending release…
Android Wear 2.0 Overview
Android Wear 2.0 – “the most significant Android Wear update since its launch two years ago” – was first announced way back in May at Google IO 2016.
Originally intended to be arriving in the following fall, Google failed to get it out of the door on time and it, instead, will launch next month.
The major addition to the Android Wear mix is standalone apps, meaning that applications can run on their own without the need to be tethered to a smartphone. This is the result of Google removing Data Layer APIs and it will also mean a lot more functionality for Android Wear users who pair their smartwatch with an iPhone; an experience which is currently very limited.
The user interface has been overhauled with Google’s Material Design standards now a lot more prominent. Wear users will see big differences with menus, icons and even the ease of selecting new watch faces.
Complications (the same word Apple uses) mean that devs can cherry pick specific bits of information to display on custom watch faces. For example, a user could pick a face that tells them weather information, a live sports score, track info for a streaming song and so on. And the big addition is that these complications will be able to pull data from multiple apps.
Google has also improved the messaging and input functionality for users to type. There are new native keyboards, as well as third party keyboard apps. Smart replies will also be improved to offer a more intuitive messaging experience from the wrist.
Android Wear 2.0 will offer auto activity tracking – a big boost to the platform’s fitness credentials. This means, for example, a wearer’s Strava app could kick in and track a workout without any button pushing at all.
Android Wear 2.0 devices
Those LG watches mentioned up top – the LG Watch Sport and LG Watch Style – were detailed by notorious tipster Evan Blass. He says they will be announced on 9 February, and will go on sale the day after.
The Sport is apparently the larger of the two, with a 1.38-inch, 480 x 480, while the Style will have a 1.2-inch, 360 x 360, face. Both models will offer Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and the Sport adds cellular, GPS and a heart rate sensor into the mix.
Another GPS-boasting smartwatch, the Tag Heuer Connected 2, will arrive with Wear 2.0 in May. Jean-Claude Biver stated that a smaller version of the smartwatch will also be released, aimed at women. Like the original Connected it will be built in partnership with Intel.
The Casio WSD-F20 will look to steal a march on the Tag by launching with Wear 2.0 in April. The F20 is waterproof to 50m, is military certified 810G for ruggedness and boasts a dual layer display – one a monochrome LCD for basic time keeping and one a regular multi-colour one for regular Android Wear functions. With just the monochrome version selected, the battery life is a whopping 30 days.
Casio isn’t the only company with rugged Android Wear ambitions. Boston sports giant New Balance used CES 2017 to reveal the RunIQ, made in collaboration with Intel.
The New Balance RunIQ packs a 1.39-inch AMOLED display, GPS, a heart rate monitor and a music player letting you pair Bluetooth buds directly to the watch. It’s also 5ATM water resistant so you can take it for a dip in the pool. It hits the shops in February.
There’s no concrete details yet but ZTE and Swarovski have also announced that they will have new Android Wear smartwatches launching in 2017.