Google's Android Wear Gains WiFi Support, Wrist Gesture Controls

The new Android Wear features are being added as Google continues to expand and enrich the capabilities of Android Wear on smartwatches for users.

Android Wear, Google, smartwatches, WiFi

Android Wear users will soon be able to incorporate new WiFi and wrist gesture capabilities when using their Android smartwatches thanks to several additional features that Google is rolling out in the Android Wear platform over the next several weeks.

The updates arrive for users as Google continues to expand Android Wear's features to give smartwatch owners more ways to get the services they need and want from their devices, according to an April 20 post by David Singleton, the director of engineering for Android Wear, on the Google Official Blog.

"Over the past few months we've added lots of ways to express your style—from custom watch faces to a rainbow of bands," wrote Singleton. "Today we're making Android Wear more helpful as well—getting you what you need, right on your wrist."

One of the key improvements in this update is support for smartwatches that have built-in WiFi, he wrote. "As long as your watch is connected to a WiFi network, and your phone has a data connection (wherever it is), you'll be able to get notifications, send messages, and use all your favorite apps," wrote Singleton. "And if you really do forget your phone, you can always ask your watch where it is."

Smartwatch users previously could use built-in GPS and offline music capabilities to get those services in the past, but the built-in WiFi support will greatly expand their capabilities.

Another key addition to Android Wear that will improve usability is a new wrist flicking gesture that will make smartwatch apps simpler to use, especially while you are in motion, wrote Singleton. "When it comes to your watch, using apps should be as simple as checking the time," he wrote. "So today we're making a number of Android Wear improvements to help you access your info, and express yourself more easily. Got your hands full? You no longer need them to check your news and notifications. Instead you can just flick your wrist to scroll through the stream."

Users will also now be able to tap the watch face display to start apps and send messages immediately, he wrote.

And if users are in a place where they can't talk at the moment a message arrives on their device, they can now draw hundreds of different emojis directly on the watch screen, Singleton wrote. "We'll recognize your work (no art degree required) and send it via message or text."

Another improvement being introduced into Android Wear is that apps will remain visible on the watch face as long as users want to see them, instead of disappearing when you drop your arm, he wrote. "In either case the screen is only full color when you're actively looking at it—so you get the info you need, and you save on battery life." Previously, the only function that stayed running in the past was the time was always shown on the screen, so users didn't need to tap, twist or shake it to see the time.

The latest Android Wear updates will be coming to all seven Android Wear watches over the next few weeks, starting with the new LG Watch Urbane, according to Singleton.

Earlier in April, reports circulated that Google has been experimenting for several months on running Android Wear on the iPhone platform and that the work is nearing completion, according to a recent eWEEK story. The project could even be unveiled at the upcoming Google I/O developers conference in May, the reports indicated. The development is particularly interesting because Apple Watch preorders began on April 10 and largely sold out in a few hours. Already, there are long waiting times of at least four to six weeks or more to get an Apple Watch due to high demand and low supplies.

The fledgling Android Wear app for the iPhone so far provides basic functions on the iPhone, such as notifications to the user about incoming messages, emails and more. It also provides Google Now services and other features on iPhones, according to the reports.

Of course, even if Google gets it all working, Apple would have to approve the inclusion of such an app in the Apple App Store where users could obtain it.

Android smartwatches today can only be used in conjunction with an Android smartphone, but that could change in the future as Google continues to develop an Android Wear app that would allow an Android smartwatch to work with an iPhone. That would give iPhone users many more choices in smartwatches (such as the Motorola Moto 360, pictured) that they could use with their iPhones. Instead of limiting them to the new Apple Watch, they would have dozens of other choices to peruse.