Google Adds Android Wear Features to Keep Pace With Apple Watch

Google Adds Android Wear Features to Keep Pace With Apple Watch
There's Full Support for Different Screen Designs
Always-On Apps Are Now Available
An Interesting Way to Save Color and Thus Battery Life
Music, GPS Still Work Even if You Leave the Phone at Home
WiFi Connectivity Is the Biggest Addition
A Flick of the Wrist Turns on News, Notifications
A Single Screen Touch Turns on Apps, Messages
The First Step in Handwriting Recognition?
All the Google Apps One Would Expect
You'll Need an Android Device
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Google Adds Android Wear Features to Keep Pace With Apple Watch

By Don Reisinger

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There's Full Support for Different Screen Designs

One of the key differentiators for Android Wear is that it works with different screen designs. So, if a company wants to build a standard rectangular screen, that's fine. If another firm, like Motorola, wants to offer a round display, Android Wear can accommodate that as well. That's a major departure from Apple's iOS, which as of this writing, will only work on the rectangular screen built into Apple Watch.

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Always-On Apps Are Now Available

Google had previously offered an always-on feature for users who wanted to be able to look at core functions, like the time, whenever they wanted. However, the company announced that with this latest update, third-party apps will also have the option to be always on. So, if a user wants to keep Facebook open, for instance, the always-on feature will ensure the social network's newsfeed will always be shown on the display.

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An Interesting Way to Save Color and Thus Battery Life

Since there's a possibility that Android Wear owners will be keeping their apps on at all times, Google was forced to rethink how it would handle battery life. So, the company announced that its latest update comes with a feature that turns the screen black and white to save battery life when it's not being held up to be viewed. As soon as users raise their wrists to view their wearable screen, the color returns.

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Music, GPS Still Work Even if You Leave the Phone at Home

Google offers offline support in Android Wear, eschewing the need to carry around a smartphone wherever a person goes. Let's say a user wants to go for a walk and listen to music. In that scenario, the Android Wear device wouldn't require that an Android-based smartphone be within distance. In fact, it can be left at home, offline, and Android Wear will still deliver full GPS and offline music support. It's a feature that's been around awhile but hasn't received much attention.

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WiFi Connectivity Is the Biggest Addition

Arguably the biggest addition to the Android Wear update is the option for full WiFi support. This means as long as a person is connected to WiFi from his or her Android Wear device, all of its features will be available no matter where the user's smartphone is. There is, however, one caveat: The smartphone must have a wireless connection, either WiFi or LTE, for the devices to communicate. Previously, connections needed to be established via Bluetooth for Android Wear to deliver its full range of features.

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A Flick of the Wrist Turns on News, Notifications

A simple wrist flick changes everything in the new and improved Android Wear. Previously, users would need to tap the screen to view news and notifications. Now, a flick of the wrist will turn on the news and notifications. It's a simple feature, but when folks have their hands full, it's a useful one.

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A Single Screen Touch Turns on Apps, Messages

Another key update to Android Wear provides an improved way of accessing apps and other information. As soon as users look at their watch face, they'll be able to touch the screen once and Android Wear will automatically give them access to apps and messages. It's another small update that could have a profound impact on usability and productivity.

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The First Step in Handwriting Recognition?

Recently, Google announced an app for Android, called Handwriting Input, that accepts handwriting and automatically converts it to standard on-screen text. In the new Android Wear, Google said that users will be able to draw emojis on the screen, and it will turn them into emoji icons users add to messages. The feature has drawn many questions, including whether it's the first step toward simple handwriting recognition in Android Wear.

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All the Google Apps One Would Expect

No surprise here, but Google has built Android Wear around its slate of cloud applications. Google Apps are central to the experience of using Android Wear. So Android Wear devices will run Google Maps, Gmail, Contacts and more.

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You'll Need an Android Device

Like Apple, which requires that users have an iPhone to use an Apple Watch, Android Wear requires an Android device in order to work. There's some hope that at some point in the future, Android Wear devices will be platform-agnostic and work with iPhones and Windows Phone devices, but for now you need to have an Android device to get the most out of Android Wear.

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