Android Wear takes a simple accessory like a watch and turns it into a must-have item to get through your day.
Android Wear refers to the version of the Android operating system that has been designed exclusively for wearable tech devices like smartwatches. These devices are compatible with mobile phones that use the Android OS of 4.3 or higher. Google Now technology has been integrated into the products along with mobile notifications and the ability to download apps from the Google Play store.
Google announced this new platform in March of 2014, citing Samsung, LG, Motorola, HTC and Asus as partners in the project. Over the next few months, each of these companies launched their own versions of a smartwatch, using Android Wear to run them. This includes the:
- Moto 360 from Motorola
- LG G Watch
- Asus ZenWatch
- Samsung Gear Live
- SmartWatch 3
- LG G Watch R
By integrating Android Wear into their smartwatches, the wearable gear becomes equipped with the following features:
- Offline music. You can download albums or playlists to the watch and use Bluetooth headphones to listen to them offline without having to use your mobile phone.
- GPS support. GPS can help you keep track of your fitness activities by measuring your distance and speed when using a fitness app.
- Local weather. You will see your local weather forecast updated throughout the day.
- Traffic conditions. Android Wear allows you to see how your commute looks.
- Appointment reminders. There is no need to check your calendar, the date, time and location of any entered appointment appears as a notification on the watch face.
- Flight tracking. Track your flights and find out about delays before leaving for the airport.
- Fitness tracker. Android Wear employs a pedometer and heart rate monitor on its wearable tech gear.
- Instant notifications. Phone calls and texts are sent to the smartwatch as soon as they hit your connected mobile phone.
- Voice activated Google. Just like a regular Google search, you can ask your watch anything and Google will give you the best response.
- Voice activated navigation. Saying ‘Ok Google navigate to..’ will automatically initiate a turn by turn navigation.
- Voice activated music. You can also command Google to start playing music through the smartwatch.
- Voice activated reminders. Android Wear becomes a personal assistant. Tell Google to remind you to get milk on the way home and your smartwatch will send you the notification at the right time.
All of these features will not be available on each of the phones that are taking advantage of Android Wear. You can check individual specs online to compare which features each device is using as a part of their smartwatch design.
The Google Play store
With an Android Wear device, you can go to the Google Play store and add apps. There are dozens to choose from and most are free. Some that stand out are apps that let you personalise the smartwatch with different ringtones, fonts and wallpapers. There are also a number that can be used without connectivity to the internet including the game ‘zombie world’ and the Wiki Encyclopedia.
With and Apple smartwatch on the horizon, and heavy competition to corner the wearable tech gear market, Android based devices needed something big to make them stand out in the crowd. Android Wear gives smartphone manufacturers an ideal platform to design their new wearable products around. With Bluetooth connectivity and WiFi, the smartwatches with Android Wear are just as capable as managing your daily life as your smart phone is.
Even though these devices use the same platform, the styles and other features of the various manufacturers smartwatches still differ greatly. Look at each one closely before making a decision to see what they offer and how much convenience it will provide.