Earlier this week, Google announced a pretty big Android Wear update coming in the next few weeks. Hitting the Watch Urbane first, the new update introduces all sorts of new features, but the one I’m most excited about might not be your first thought. The update sounds great all round, the new app launcher has been a long time coming, and frankly should have been there since day one, but the introduction of WiFi is what could eradicate a pain point for a lot of Android Wear users. Let’s take a look at why it makes sense.
Like many people, I’ve always liked to wear a watch, for a long time I didn’t really use my watch to tell the time, but I always liked wearing it. Now, for a couple of years I’ve been wearing a smartwatch, I started off with the Sony SmartWatch 2, moved to the LG G Watch and have just swapped to a Moto 360. I really enjoyed all of these watches and Android Wear is getting better all of the time. It’s great to have a watch that does so much for me, just taking care of notifications helps me in a big way day-to-day, however when they lose connection, it’s no fun any more. The whole point in having a smartwatch is to get you away from the smartphone quite as much, but if I walk away from my desk to the kitchen (not very far away, at all) and my watch loses connection it’s not really that helpful any more. This is where WiFi comes in.
From the official update notes, Google states: “Now Android Wear supports watches with built-in Wi-Fi. As long as your watch is connected to a Wi-Fi network, and your phone has a data connection (wherever it is), you’ll be able to get notifications, send messages, and use all your favorite apps. And if you really do forget your phone, you can always ask your watch where it is.” This is music to my ears. I have a stand for my phone on my desk, and there’s where it stays a lot of the time, I use PushBullet for text messages and my watch to deal with incoming email and such that I am not interested in. I also use my watch to send quick messages when I’m not at my desk, to google conversions, different time zones, set timers, that sort of thing. I still have to take my phone with me when I leave. I’m sure a lot of users that say, have their smartphone connected to their Office’s WiFi or their home network would love being able to leave their phone on the couch, at their desk, in their coat or wherever and still get the functionality of the watch.
Whether it’s my Xperia Z2 or the Moto 360, the range of connection seems to be woeful, and this is coming from someone that works from home (read: I have little land to roam upon). I can only imagine how annoying it is for those working in a communal office when walking to the kitchen to grab a coffee or heading into a meeting to check messages or sports scores on their watch to find that – oh, it’s disconnected, again. WiFi is practically everywhere these days and if you can carry on getting notifications and such to your watch when disconnected via Bluetooth, it will make these devices a lot more useful.
Sadly, this update isn’t going to bring this great feature to all Android Wear devices. The G Watch and G Watch R are exempt as they don’t have the necessary antennas, but the LG Watch Urbane will support it. So too, will the Sony SmartWatch 3 and Moto 360, the ASUS ZenWatch is out as well. Regardless, filling the gap with WiFi support paints a nice picture for the future of Android Wear watches.