Google became involved in the smartwatch market in 2014, back when Android Wear was first introduced as a new, minimal operating system for wearables. Since then, Android Wear became the standard OS for the majority of smartwatch makers, and the platform continued to improve with new features and updates. This year, however, Google is expected to release one of the biggest updates for its wearable platform, and earlier this week at Google I/O, the search engine giant confirmed some of the major upcoming additions in Android Wear 2.0.
Android Wear 2.0 is the next big step in the evolution of Google’s operating system for wearables. It will be released to consumers this fall, and the developer preview build showcased at Google I/O is already available for select smartwatches. Android Wear 2.0 introduces a number of highly anticipated features, including numerous changes to the user interface, such as a new app launcher, a new notification design, as well as a new watch face picker. Android Wear 2.0 is also supposed to make better use of round displays, and will add improvements to the Google Fit platform. Nevertheless, one of the most anticipated aspects of Android Wear 2.0 is the addition of standalone app support. This will allow Android Wear applications to offer full functionality even when the smartwatch is not paired to a smartphone. Standalone applications don’t have to rely on the Data Layer APIs, and so with Android Wear 2.0, apps will be able to connect to the Internet over Wi-Fi, cellular, or Bluetooth, even when the connected smartphone is out of range.
With the standalone app support added, smartwatches running Android Wear 2.0 will be more independent and less reliant on smartphones, and with that in mind, it makes sense for the platform to offer a new input method. Needless to say, Android Wear 2.0 introduces an on-screen keyboard as well as handwriting recognition for when you may need to reply to, or compose a new message, and through the Android input method framework, developers can even create their own input methods. Other features bound to enhance user experience include a new “Complications” API that allows developers to display app information directly on the watch face, and a new notification template. All in all, Android Wear 2.0 has a lot to offer to smartwatch users and with the inclusion of all the new features mentioned above, the platform might have the potential to convince even non-enthusiasts to give smartwatches a try.