Android Wear Tarts Itself Up

Drawing Emoji on Android Wear

I missed the part where drawing pictures on your wrist became the smartwatch’s killer app…

Yesterday Google announced a major update for the Android Wear platform. Apple needed YouTube to demonstrate the many and varied features of its first smartwatch; the official Google announcement is similarly full of animated GIFs. In other words, Android Wear just got more complicated.

The changes to Android Wear are fourfold:

1. WiFi Support

Apparently all Android Wear smartwatches have had, until now, a dormant WiFi radio onboard. This update lights it up, so now you can leave your phone at home and get your watch hacked at your local Starbucks instead—or, I suppose, leave your phone in the bedroom and still have a connected watch to use in the basement.

2. Always-on Screen and Apps

This new feature seems more useful, but will surely have an adverse effect on Wear’s already piss-poor battery life. Instead of blanking out after a few seconds at idle your display will now go monochrome instead. Think dimly-lit text and graphics on a black screen and you’ve got the idea.

3. A Better Interface

Now you can scroll through your notifications simply by flicking your wrist. Neat. The bigger improvement here is an interface that finally makes sense. One screen to the right of your watchface is where you’ll now find a proper list of installed apps; to the right of that, a list of your contacts—and to the right of that, a list of actions you can execute from your watch.

Wear Mini Launcher is no longer a requirement for Android Wear.

4. The Emoji Thing

Now fandroids won’t ever have to suffer from doodle-on-your-wrist envy. Or, put another way, the most gimmicky feature of the Apple Watch has been parroted for Android Wear.

Now lest you think I’m some kind of emoji-hater, I’ve used my Pebble and an emoji or two to reply to IMs and such. And I reckon I can do it a lot faster with Pebble’s available quicklist of the nine-or-so most popular options—just select, send and I’m done; no wrist-doodling required.

Oh, and did I mention that my Pebble runs for a full week on a single charge…?

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