Google Enhances Android Wear - InformationWeek

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10/24/2014
10:58 AM
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Google Enhances Android Wear

Google's first major update to its Android Wear platform helps devices rely less on smartphones.

Wearables At Work: 7 Productivity Apps
Wearables At Work: 7 Productivity Apps
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Google has pushed a system update to Android Wear devices just as two more wearables head to the market. With new features, new apps, and new hardware in tow, Android Wear is slowly developing its foundation ahead of the arrival of the Apple Watch.

The updated Android Wear operating system introduces two key features, both of which grant Wear devices and their owners a new level of freedom. First, GPS. Fitness-minded Android Wear owners can now take to the streets for a jog or bike ride without their smartphones. Prior to the update, Android Wear required a smartphone for exercise-tracking features. Now, Android Wear devices that have embedded GPS sensors can log runs, walks, and other exercise independent from smartphones. Smartphones don't belong everywhere, and it's often preferable to take in some exercise without one along.

Second, Android Wear devices are now capable of playing back locally stored music files. Before the update, Android Wear could only be used to control playback of music stored on a nearby smartphone. Once the update is installed, Android Wear owners will be able to load up some tunes and listen to them via Bluetooth even if their smartphones are elsewhere. Most current Android Wear devices are limited to just 4 GB of internal storage, so don't expect to be able to carry your entire library on your wrist.

These are welcome improvements to Google's wearable platform, indeed. The Moto 360, Samsung Gear Live, and LG G Watch can all take advantage of the system update in the days ahead.

[Lost dog? See 7 Cool Wearables For Pets.]

If you haven't picked up an Android Wear smartwatch yet, two new options are finally ready for purchasing. The LG G Watch R and the Sony Smart Watch 3 have arrived. Each was announced earlier this year. The Sony Smart Watch 3 can be preordered from Verizon Wireless for $250. Google said the Smart Watch 3 will be available from the Play Store in the near future. The same is true of the LG G Watch R. The R, like the Moto 360, is round. The Sony and Samsung devices are square.

Smartwatches aren't so smart without apps. According to Google, developers have added Android Wear support to tens of thousands apps. In order to help Wear owners discover apps for their wearables, Google rolled out eight new app collections in the Google Play Store. With apps called out in categories such as health and fitness, travel, and others, it should be quicker to find those that work on both smartphones and smartwatches.

The Internet of Things demands reliable connectivity, but standards remain up in the air. Here's how to kick your IoT strategy into high gear. Get the new IoT Goes Mobile issue of InformationWeek Tech Digest today. (Free registration required.)

Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio

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PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
10/26/2014 | 1:56:25 PM
Re: apple watch and phone
Since many of the apps and functionalities on the Google are tethered to the device it would put it in a advantage over Apple.  Battery power is really important.  Imagine a person running and the Google watch shutting itself off.  Health monitoring and Home monitoring are fields which would really be impacted by these devices.  I wonder whether health care settings or institutions which take care of the elderly would support these devices 
H@mmy
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[email protected],
User Rank: Ninja
10/26/2014 | 10:07:59 AM
Re: Google Enhances Android Wear
I think that these wearable devices are still in infancy. There is a big need of improvement and development. A fierce competition among competitors may bring down prices and a much better product may be.
H@mmy
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[email protected],
User Rank: Ninja
10/26/2014 | 10:04:19 AM
Apps
"developers have added Android Wear support to tens of thousands apps"

Its good to see that Android wear users will not have to wait for the apss. I still think that there should be apps specially desiged and developed for smart wear. Less number of apps may cause the users to lose interest.
zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
10/24/2014 | 6:13:28 PM
Re: Google Enhances Android Wear
Well said, Whoopty. The biggest complaints we hear so far from wearable nay-sayers is that a) the price point is still too high and b) the devices are not versatile enough to see wide adoption. We see the use case again and again, for example, that these devices would be great for warehouse floor workers - but it's not like someone's going to manufacturer a device made just for warehouse floor workers... and if they did, it would probably be too expensive to be worth buying dozens of. All the niche devices we've seen so far fall flat because they're too niche and have a few fatal design flaws (like uber-short battery life) as a result.

There needs to be an off-the-shelf option that supports all (or, many) of these use cases. I think that's what buyers are waiting for. While Apple may very well bring the consumer popularity, and put some nervous investors at ease, I think Android devices are a lot more likely to meet that criteria, particularly, as you say, in the long run. You could say it's just a numbers game - one device has to come along that changes everyone's tune. Statistically speaking, it's just more likely to be running Android.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
10/24/2014 | 6:06:34 PM
Re: apple watch and phone
I'll be interested to see what kind of battery life Android Wear devices get with GPS draining power constantly.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
10/24/2014 | 4:25:21 PM
apple watch and phone
The Apple watch's reliance on the iPhone: Must this change over time? Weigh in, readers.
Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
10/24/2014 | 12:02:18 PM
Android dominance
While I think Apple will pick up a reasonable audience with its Apple watch, I think the wearable landscape is going to shape up very differently than the smartphone one and that the open nature of Android, allowing lots of third party manufacturers to use it, is going to give Google a giant boost in the long run. 

When you can have wearables that all interact with one another, or a couple of wearables that do on an iOS platform, it just makes sense to go with the one with more options.
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