The update means that smartwatch wearers can gain more freedom from their smartphones when using devices that have cellular capabilities.
After initially including only WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity between smartphones and other wearables, Google's Android Wear software now has cellular connectivity, as well, giving users more options for using their wearables without having to carry their smartphones at the same time.
The new cellular capabilities in the application
were unveiled Nov. 11 by Peter Ludwig, product manager for Android Wear, in the Android Official Blog
"Android Wear lets you stay connected, even when your phone isn't with you," wrote Ludwig. "With Bluetooth and WiFi support, for example, you can see who's calling when your phone is in the next room, or respond to messages at the gym while your phone is at home. Today, we're bringing cellular support to Android Wear, so you can stay connected in even more places."
The first Android Wear watch to include cellular support is the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE (pictured),
which is being rolled out around the world by LG this month, starting with the United States and Korea.
"No more worrying about Bluetooth or WiFi," wrote Ludwig. With the updated Android Wear services, "your watch will automatically switch to a cellular connection when you're out of range. As long as your watch and phone are connected to a cellular network, you'll be able to use your watch to send and receive messages, track fitness, get answers from Google, and run your favorite apps."
Users with compatible smartwatches will also be able to make and take calls right from their watches, he wrote.
"The next time you're running an errand or a marathon, try leaving your phone behind," wrote Ludwig. "With calling, messaging, and thousands of apps right on your wrist, you'll always be able to stay in touch and on track. Say good-bye to bulky pockets and awkward armbands: cellular support for Android Wear lets you wear what you want."
Android Wear has been getting a steady stream of updates in recent months. In August, the Android Wear for iOS app was launched to give iPhone 5 and iPhone 6 users access to its features when using an Android smartwatch along with their Apple devices. The long-awaited move, which was rumored in April, means that iPhone 5, 5C, 5S, 6 or 6 Plus users who are running iOS 8.2 or later versions of the OS on their devices can now use Android Wear to get information about phone calls, messages and app notifications at a glance on their smartphones, according to a recent eWEEK
story. Users can also customize their Android watch faces and more using their iPhones.
In the past, Apple Watches could only be used with iPhones while Android smartwatches had to be used with Android Wear and an Android phone. The Android Wear for iOS app changes that. Using the new app, iPhone users with Android smartwatches can get notifications about phone calls, messages and notifications from various apps, as well as use their devices to set fitness goals and get daily and weekly views of their progress. With Android Wear for iOS, Android smartwatches will automatically track users' walking and running while also measuring their heart rates.
On the other hand, the Android Wear for iOS app won't allow iPhone users to get all the features and functions that they would get if using their smartphones with a native Apple Watch, which is built to work seamlessly with iPhones. For some users, that will be an unacceptable limitation, but for others, it might just be an inconvenience.
Also in August, Android Wear received support for animated interactive watch face designs right on their smartwatches so they can see needed information at a glance, without having to tap an app to retrieve the details.