Android Wear 2.0 Arrives This Fall With Greater Smartphone Independence, Improved Text Input

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While other smartwatch operating systems seem to evolve at a somewhat glacial pace (a la watchOS), Google is kicking into overdrive with regards to adding features to Android Wear. The company is continually adding little tweaks and new software features here and there, and this fall will see yet another big revamp with the release of Android Wear 2.0.

Google has overhauled the Android Wear UI, making it easier to respond to and take action when notifications come through, and includes a new darker UI color palette that blends in more deftly with smartwatches featuring round displays. Google also updated the watch face picker, making it easier to update the look of your watch at a moment’s notice.

Android Wear 2.0 gives your smartwatch greater freedom from your smartphone by allowing apps to have direct access to a Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or cellular internet connection. That means even if your smartphone is turned off or out of range of your Android Wear smartwatch, apps can still connect to the internet and function normally without needing to access the Data Layer API.

Other changes in Android Wear 2.0 focus more on aesthetics, with Google’s Material Design language filtering down and a new customizable Complications API that allows tiny nuggets of information to be displayed via your current watch face (something that has been prevalent on the Apple Watch).

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In addition, Android Wear 2.0 brings improvements to the Google Fit platform, support for Android N features like Data Saver and Java 8 Lambda, and support for handwriting input (or more accurately, “finger” writing). Handwriting input works by writing out a single letter at time on the display. There’s also a new gesture keyboard that allows you to slide your finger over the keys to belt out text.

The Android Wear 2.0 Developer Preview is currently available for download for both the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE and the Huawei Watch, as well as the official Android Emulator.