As one might expect from the name of Android Wear, this is the particular flavour of Android designed to run on wearable devices. Android Wear was first showcased two years ago running on three devices, the Motorola Moto 360, the LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live. The original version of Android Wear, 1.0, is based on Android 4.4 Kit Kat and has a relatively limited amount of support: Wear devices could pair up with a range of Android smartphones and tablets running Android 4.3 or later over a Bluetooth connection. Customers had to wait until Android Wear 1.3, based on Android 5.0 Lollipop, was released before their smartwatches could benefit from the built-in Wi-Fi radio that many Wear devices had. Android Wear 1.3 was released in the summer of 2015 and has been followed last month by Android Wear 1.4, which is based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The platform supports both ARM and Intel x86 processors, giving manufacturers a degree of freedom for the hardware, but Google have deliberately locked down the software meaning that devices look and operate in a very similar way.
The latest version of Android Wear, 1.4, introduces some important new features, including the doze function also found in smartphones and tablets running Android 6.0. For those Android Wear devices containing an onboard speaker, now the smartwatch can act as a remote speaker for both ‘phone calls and playing back music. Although Android Wear 1.4 was released in early February, not all manufacturers have released the software for their smartwatches but we’ve news today that the ASUS ZenWatch 2 is receiving the update to Android Wear 1.4. From the reports, it appears that the ZenWatch 2 has been receiving the update in stages: those devices still running 1.3 should receive the update in the next few days.
As a reminder of the ASUS ZenWatch 2, in terms of specification this is a typical Android Wear smartwatch. It’s powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 System-on-Chip, backed up by 512 MB of RAM and with 4 GB of onboard storage. There’s a 1.63-inch AMOLED display with a 320 by 320 pixel resolution, a 400 mAh rechargeable battery, onboard Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, plus the speaker – which is enabled with the update to Android Wear 1.4. The ZenWatch 2, finished in stainless steel, also cuts a certain dash with a rounded square watch face. Early reports are that the ZenWatch 2’s speaker is loud and clear following the update.