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Android Wear: Google updates smartwatch operating system just before Apple Watch launch

Google has updated Android Wear, its smartwatch operating system, giving it the biggest shake-up ever just days ahead of the launch of the Apple Watch.

The update adds four main new features — hand-drawn emoji, wi-fi support, hands-free controls and always-on apps — none of which are on Apple’s Watch OS.

Hand-drawn emoji allow users to sketch out emoji on the screen and have them recognised and then converted by the watch.

Wifi support allows watches to connect to the internet over a wifi connection, and use that as a way to take data from phones. That means that the watches, which still require a phone to operate, can be used wherever a wifi connection is available — even if that is far from the phone.

It also adds the option for developers to keep apps on screen at all times, for as long as they’re needed, rather than just keeping them up until the screen goes dark or users drop their arm. The apps go in a special black and white mode so that they can save battery.

And all of those apps can now be controlled using new hands-free controls. That lets users flick their wrist to scroll through menus, rather than doing it with their other hand, and allows them to get to important information more quickly from the home screen.

The updates are coming to all of the seven Android Wear watches “over the next few weeks”, Google said. The LG Watch Urbane will be the first to get it, according to a blogpost by David Singleton, director of engineering for Android Wear.

Further reading

Google, Tag Heuer and Intel to create Android Wear smartwatch to take on Apple Watch

Independent News Service