Android Wear Bump Shows Strengths And Weaknesses

Google has announced an updated software release for Android Wear smartwatches, bringing several new features to the table - but it's going to be an Android-style messy update that relies on manufacturers to push to users.

First of all the good. The arrival of Wifi, which means that you can make use of your smartwatch without necessarily having your phone to hand, as it will still pick up messages and notifications, assuming that you have access to an open Wifi signal of course. 

Android Wear watches will now have their screens permanently illuminated. That's a definite plus, especially for those with OLED screens that won't suck the battery dry as a result. One of the biggest complaints I've heard from people about smartwatches - and especially the Apple Watch - is the delay between lifting your wrist and the screen switching on. Losing that particular annoyance will make Android Wear instantly more appealing.

There are two new functions with this update. The ability to draw on the screen and have those drawings turned into emoji before being sent to a friend (I'm sure I've heard of a similar feature somewhere else before) and motion support for gestures. Presumably this has been enabled because the Wear no longer has to use the accelerometer to sense when the arm has been raised. The software will recognise two motions initially, towards the body and away from it, initially allowing scrolling back and forth between screens. This sounds like functionality which could grow in future releases.

So what of the bad?

Well the update is coming to the new LG Watch Urbane first with other watches getting the update over time. Having seen how well thats worked for Android phones I'm expecting this to be a time of required patience for owners of older Android Wear devices.

At least the mobile network operators aren't involved this time. And Google does promise that the update will be available to all Wear owners in a few weeks, so maybe I'm just being overly pessimistic.

Full details of the update can be found here at Google's official blog.

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